A worker crafts a rams horns into the wall of the Lambert Lane project.

By Misti Nowak, communications administrator, Town of Oro Valley

Drivers and pedestrians alike breathed a collective sigh of relief on June 30 when Lambert Lane re-opened. I’m willing to bet, however, that many people didn’t realize there was still so much more work to be done, and that although the road was technically now “open,” it was still under heavy construction. And that meant more delays.

So I’d like to tell you about what was accomplished by June 30, and what’s next for this very busy intersection as we draw nearer to project completion.
As a reminder, (and for those new to the area), the Lambert Lane Phase II Project was launched to improve safety and visibility along Lambert, while widening the roadway to accommodate additional travel lanes, multi-modal enhancements, curbs and landscaping. The work is being performed by Granite Construction, Inc., and the project is funded by the Pima Association of Governments.

Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate the less visible work that goes into a project. Long before paving is installed, surveyors are hard at work, and the contractor spends months grading and adjusting utilities. These initial stages of the project aren’t very glamorous to the layperson, but they’re critical to the success of the finished product. This type of critical infrastructure work has been the bulk what has been completed so far.

At the very beginning of the project, as crews began digging and grading, the native vegetation was carefully removed and placed in a preservation nursery for the duration of the project so it can be replanted later. The Town makes every effort to restore as much native vegetation as space and the health of the vegetation allows. Additionally, the contractor will maintain the landscaping and irrigation for a full year to help re-establish the vegetation in that area.
With native vegetation safely tucked away, crews have been able to relocate any existing utilities, infrastructure and material that conflicted with the new project. Utility work is a highly involved and time-intensive portion of any project. They’ve also installed new traffic signals and traffic control measures and removed old ones.

Erosion control materials and stormwater control measures were also a big part of the pre-June 30 work plan, as crews installed storm drain pipe and catch basins. Stormwater efforts will continue in the coming months, with the placement of a storm channel on the north side of Lambert.

One of the major safety features of this project was widening Lambert Lane and reducing the height and grade of the hill to improve sight visibility for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. In order to do that, you have to remove a lot of dirt. How much? More than 60,000 cubic yards so far. That works out to roughly a football field covered with 40 inches of soil! And of course, any time you change the shape of a hill, you have to stabilize what’s left behind. So considerable work was done to construct soil nail walls along the north and south side of the streets. (A soil nail wall is basically a hillside that has been internally stabilized with re-bar, and then has received an outer coating of a concrete-like substance to hold everything in place.) The resulting walls are actually quite beautiful, resembling undulating cliff walls, as great care is given to their aesthetic value. Crews have even crafted a few bighorn sheep horns into the wall! You’ll want to check out our photo album on Facebook to see pictures of the wall and the rest of the project.

Once completed, this section of Lambert Lane, west to Hacienda Hermosa, will be four lanes wide with a left-turn lane and a right-turn lane in each direction, plus a bus pullout on southbound La Cañada and another pullout on eastbound Lambert. If you’ve driven through the area, you’ll notice not all the adjacent pavement is down yet, and that’s something that will be completed in the coming weeks and months. Speaking of pavement, you might be surprised to learn that our roads are 15 inches thick and consist of three different layers. After crews have carefully prepared and compacted the dirt subgrade, they lay down ten inches of aggregate base, followed by three inches of asphalt cement mix no. 1, which provides structural support, and top it off with two inches of asphalt cement mix no. 2, which is the smooth surface we drive on. It’s quite a process.

So what else still needs to be done?

In the coming months, as crews wrap up the final stages of road paving, they’ll also complete some of the major safety features, such as the installation of a concrete sidewalk on the north side of Lambert, and the construction of a 10-foot-wide, multi-use path on the south side of the road. We’ve already heard from residents how excited they are that they’ll now be able to safely walk to the shopping centers at Lambert and La Cañada, thanks to these new paths and sidewalks!

We’ll also see some aesthetic and artistic enhancements as architectural treatments are applied to the soil nail walls, and decorative rock and metal cacti are installed throughout the project. Native vegetation will also be replanted (along with the installation of new irrigation lines). As the paving and curb installation concludes, new striping and signage will follow.

Since the project will be ongoing for the next few months, that means we’ll be looking at traffic control measures like barricades and reduced speeds until everything is completed later this year. Keep an eye out for traffic alerts from the Town when significant lane restrictions will be in place that could impact your daily drive.

In the meantime, please accept our sincerest thanks from Oro Valley Council and staff for your ongoing patience and safe driving. We realize this impacts your daily commute, and it impacts your access to the businesses we value and support. We are grateful to have such a courteous and understanding community that understands this short-term inconvenience has a long-term payoff that will result in improved safety and traffic flow for everyone.
So hang in there a little longer, Oro Valley. The end is in sight, and it is gorgeous!

Why is Lambert Lane still
under construction?