300 days. Not quite a year, but the plain truth, is that at times, it will seem interminable. The end result will be wonderful, smoother traffic flow, improved safety and a transformed Vail town center. When the work is done there will be a center turn lane, walkways on both sides of Colossal Cave Road, landscaping, safer railroad crossings with improved visibility, better drainage, and beautiful public art punctuating  our streetscape and book ending our historic town center.  Vail Preservation Society, who is funding and facilitating the creation of the public art, is a project stakeholder. This is another way that VPS fulfills our mission to Connect Community Through Local History. Art builds a sense of place, especially when it is created by and for the Vail community.

There will never be a “perfect” time to complete this important road work. Like a critical operation the doctor says is necessary, we have to prepare for and be an informed “patient” (resident). We must plan ahead every day and work cooperatively with the team of experts performing the necessary “procedure.” Sandi Garrick, Pima County’s Colossal Cave Road project manager, is managing for success. All of the stakeholders have met, understand the significant challenges this project presents, and are committed to working together to ensure a safe, successful and on-time project completion.  There will be no long-term progress for the central Vail community without this project. The project will have a page on the Pima County Transportation website so you can check on progress.

During the project, there will be two lanes of traffic. There will be two short periods during which the road will be closed for the Union Pacific Railroad to complete its part of the project. The number of residents heading to work and the number of students attending school will not change. What each of us can do to make this construction period safe and on schedule is to plan ahead. Build extra time into your schedule. Understand that every bus must stop, set their break, open the door, and look both ways at each railroad track crossing. This is the law, but we wouldn’t have it any other way because we all care about the safety of our community’s children. Show appreciation to the construction workers who are making our transportation improvements happen. They may be working for Southern Arizona Paving, Kinder Morgan, Union Pacific Railroad, Pima County Transportation or other organizations – they are all building a better future for Vail. They are all concerned and planning for safety and to provide smooth traffic flow. Each of us is a partner and stakeholder as well in ensuring that the project proceeds safely. Our positive attitude will make the 300 days of construction a safe and productive part of our community’s story. I can’t wait for the wonderful changes this project will bring to the Vail community!

A little about “the rest of the story.” Colossal Cave Road was constructed in 1898 by the Helvetia Mining Company who spent $10,000 on its construction from Helvetia to Vail’s siding. It was called Vail Road until 2006. In 1926 a petition was presented by local residents including Frank Schmidt of Colossal Cave and Guy Monthan of Rancho del Lago on behalf of the town of Vail seeking the establishment of a highway: “Beginning at a point on the Tucson-Benson Highway in the Town of Vail, Arizona, thence across the concrete dip over the Pantano Wash on the old Vail-Benson Highway, along the present constructed road to Collossal Cave, a distance of 6.2 miles more or less.” Three notices were posted on June 29, 1926, at the railroad crossing at the west end of the proposed road, on a fence post along the proposed road near Monthan’s Ranch,and on a sign post at the eastern end of the proposed road. On July 30, 1926 the Board of Viewers appointed by the Pima County Board of Supervisors approved the acceptance of the road. They said “We have examined the proposed location and believe that all lands, by the location and construction of an improved road, will benefit thereby in excess of any damages that may result.” I agree. In 2016 and into the future, Vail will benefit thereby. Every time you pass a construction worker or wait as a bus safely crosses the tracks, keep the long term benefits in mind as you plan for the extra time it will take. It will be worth it, and our attitudes as community stakeholders will ensure a safe and on-time project.

J.J. Lamb, Vail Preservation Society

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J.J. Lamb