I-17 101 traffic interchange

Major improvements along SR 86 due to growth southwest of Tucson

Major improvements along SR 86 due to growth southwest of Tucson

March 23, 2016

TUCSON – Built in 1935 as a two-lane roadway through sparsely populated areas, State Route 86, also known as Ajo Way, has developed into a vital link in Tucson’s transportation system as development and traffic increase on the city’s southwest side.

To help the community keep up with residential and commercial growth, the Arizona Department of Transportation is planning major improvements to this east-west corridor connecting with Interstate 19.

Two projects aimed at relieving traffic congestion are already underway between Valencia Road (milepost 159) and the Interstate 19/Ajo Way junction (milepost 172), widening seven miles of the highway and modernizing the Interstate 19 interchange.

“These improvements will add capacity while making it easier for motorists to navigate through this area, which is seeing tremendous growth,” ADOT Southcentral District Engineer Rod Lane said.

This month, ADOT began widening SR 86 from Valencia to Kinney roads (mileposts 159-166). Between Valencia Road and Sheridan Avenue, the highway will be expanded from two lanes to four lanes, while the urban section from Sheridan Avenue to Kinney Road will be upgraded to a six-lane highway.

Initial work on the $41 million project includes vegetation and earth removal to prepare for new travel lanes. That work is expected to begin in mid-April.

Next, this spring ADOT launched the first phase of a $40 million, two-year project to replace the antiquated I-19/Ajo Way traffic interchange, which was built in 1965. The new interchange will feature a wider 218-foot-long bridge over I-19 and a single set of signals controlling traffic entering and exiting the interstate rather than signals at multiple locations.

The design for the revamped interchange is similar to the I-19/Valencia Road interchange. The project also includes widening Ajo Way from two to three lanes in each direction between 16th Avenue east of I-19 and the Santa Cruz River bridge west of I-19.

A second phase, scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2018, will include widening I-19 within the project area, two new bridge structures, new pavement from Irvington Road to north of Ajo Way and a new structure for the southbound I-19 Ajo Way on-ramp to cross over the Irvington Road off-ramp. 

A five-and-a-half-mile section of Ajo Way (mileposts 167-172) between these two projects is the subject of an ongoing ADOT study to determine what improvements are needed to accommodate the more than 44,000 vehicles per day projected to use this section by 2030. No construction funding has been identified for making improvements to this stretch.

ADOT works to inform the public about planned highway restrictions, but there is a possibility that unscheduled closures or restrictions may occur. Weather can also affect a project schedule. To stay up to date with the latest highway conditions around the state, visit the ADOT Traveler Information Center at az511.gov or call 511.