July 6, 2008

Planning to Start for Kolb Road Extension


Planning for the contentious Kolb Road extension to Sabino Canyon Road is scheduled to get under way in the next six months.

The project is part of the Regional Transportation Plan, and it involves construction of a new road connecting North Kolb and North Sabino Canyon roads on the city's East Side.

The area is divided among people who passionately support the project and those who just as passionately object to it.

The connection is designed to alleviate some of the congestion at the Tanque Verde and Grant Road intersection, which is a mandatory route for anyone coming south on Sabino Canyon Road who wants to continue south to Kolb after Tanque Verde Road.

The new road would allow those drivers to continue southbound, driving along Udall Park, and then through an area that is now open space and the site of an old city landfill, before connecting with southbound Kolb north of East Speedway.

The city Transportation Department plans to ask for bids from design contractors in the next few months, then begin the planning process, said Michael Graham, department spokesman.

Planning includes the creation of a citizens advisory committee made up of representatives of area groups, such as nearby neighborhoods and businesses. The city follows this community-input model for most of its road-project planning.

Supporters of the project have said it will help move some of the traffic away from congested areas and into the places it's already trying to go. Relieving that congestion also will make the area safer, supporters have said.

But those who think the project would do more harm than good have not changed their stance in the past two years.

The Udall Park Neighborhood Association remains opposed to the project, said Anne Stephenson, association president.

She cites the riparian area near the planned roadway, the worsening of the heat-island effect for the neighborhood after more pavement is installed, and increased traffic.

"We see it as a real division and taking away of what makes our neighborhood," Stephenson said.

There also are questions about how much it will cost to accommodate building a new road on or near the closed landfill.

And the cost of the project, which is scheduled to receive $9 million in RTA funds, has been questioned.

Joan Lionetti, Udall Park Neighborhood Association secretary, said the $9 million figure is so low that it's "absolutely ridiculous."

The city is scheduled to get $420,000 in RTA funds for the fiscal year beginning Tuesday.

Construction on the project is scheduled to begin in 2011, before the first five-year segment of the RTA plan has passed, Graham said.

The project has been through many phases. At one point during the planning process years ago, it would have included a grade- separated interchange at Kolb and Speedway, which would have been much more expensive, said Jim Glock, city transportation director.

* Contact reporter Andrea Kelly at 573-4243 or [email protected]

Originally published by ANDREA KELLY, ARIZONA DAILY STAR.

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