Bicyclists enthusiasts who are raising alarms about a lack of bike lanes on Quail Crossing Boulevard are getting ahead of themselves, Sahuarita officials say.
Last week, the Santa Cruz Valley Bicycle Advocate Committee sent a letter to Mayor Tom Murphy and council members expressing concern that the next phase of the Quail Crossing Boulevard project will be built without bike lanes or paved shoulders since the first phase of the project has neither.
Quail Crossing Boulevard will ultimately connect Nogales Highway to Old Nogales Highway near Quail Creek. Phase one, which runs from Nogales Highway to the Santa Cruz River, was completed about a year ago.
Members of the committee believe the town is creating a safety issue for bicyclists and the community at large.
"We're just mystified as to what’s going on because Sahuarita has always been very friendly to bicycles and they’ve attracted many bicyclists to the town and to the area and to Quail Creek," committee chairman Bill Adamson said. "We just don’t understand what this change is all about."
Until now, the town has always put in paved shoulders and bike lanes, Adamson said.
"The paved shoulders are not just for bikes, but they allow vehicles to pull off to the side of the road and they allow emergency vehicles to get through," Adamson said. "If you look at the way they put in the first part of the road...not only doesn’t it have the paved shoulders, but it’s very rocky. They put rocks on the shoulder that are very sharped-edged and if a bicyclist was forced off the road they’d be in serious trouble."
Councilman Gil Lusk said no decisions have been made about bike lanes during the next phase of construction, which is about 1.2 miles.
In February, the town signed a $535,000 contract with Psomas Inc. to design the second phase of the road and is still waiting to see what the plans call for and the potential cost, Lusk said.
The design phase is expected to be completed by August 2020.
"It's not like we sat down as a council and said we're not putting in bike lanes," Lusk said.
The total cost of the road is expected to reach $3.9 million. One of the major issues is how best to cross the Santa Cruz River. Psomas will study an at-grade dip crossing and a 150- to 200-foot bridge.
Lusk said officials have been discussing the possibility of asking voters to pass a bond in November 2020, that would include about $3.5 million for the road and close to $5 million to design and build Sahuarita Town Square, a place to socialize, dine, shop and work.
Lusk said it's possible that the bond could also be used to add bike lanes and paved shoulders to the already completed portion of the road.
A few years ago, the Town Council had to choose between putting funds toward a Quail Crossing Boulevard plan or beginning construction on the road, Lusk said. He opted for the latter, fearing a plan would "sit on a shelf" for years.
"Unfortunately, when the first half was built, it didn't occur to me that we'd build a road that wouldn't have shoulders. That has to be looked at and it will be looked at," Lusk said.
Murphy said there has been some discussion about pursuing a general obligation bond for the town square and the road but no decision has been made.
"There has to be further discussions on what’s the size of the package, what is it for and none of those things have been sort of done," Murphy said.
Beth Abramovitz, public works director and town engineer, said the town is seeking federal grant money in the hopes of turning the two-lane road into a four-lane road with bike lanes and a bridge over the Santa Cruz River. Additional environmental work is underway to better position the town for the application process, she said. No decision on the grant will be known for at least a year, Abramovitz said.
The first phase of the road was always expected to be an "interim connection," and should the town pursue a bond, it would likely only fund a continuation of the two-lane interim connection, she said.
When the decision was made to create the two-lane road, the thought was that "having some connection is better than no connection," Abramovitz said.
Officials also thought that if developers purchased the land adjoining the road, they could bear the cost of adding bike lanes and paved shoulders rather than the town, she said.
For the town to add bike lanes, it would increase the cost of the project by at least one-third, she said.
Adamson said the group will be carefully following the situation as it unfolds.
"I think we’ve made our position clear. We can’t demand anything, we can only recommend what we think is best for the community and they take it from there," he said.