Immediately north of the Interstate 10 and Colossal Cave Road intersection lies a 2.2-mile western stretch of road that dead ends into the desert. Abandoned in the 1960’s, this road used to move state highway traffic into Tucson. Now it is a dead end road.

However, it is not unusual for Vail residents to witness an out of town vehicle pull out of the Vail gas station or one of the fast food establishments, drive south on Colossal Cave Road and then make the mistaken right turn down this abandoned road thinking they are eventually merging on the interstate highway.

“There are signs that add to the confusion for drivers,” said Nick Buchholz. “It is a simple fix for the transportation department.”

Nick moved to Tucson and recently he made his first trip to Vail in order to visit a friend. “As I was heading south from Vail, I saw the sign that read ‘Frontage Road’ along with the interstate sign and made the quick decision to turn.” Nick added, “I drove westbound on the abandoned road about 1/4th of a mile and then realized this road was never going to merge onto the highway.”

18 The road has been abandoned for 50 years, but still is maintained with new speed limit signs.

There are several reasons why Nick and many others get confused and most of those reasons have to do with signage. Nick pointed out three things: 1. The green “Frontage Road” sign should probably be removed since the road is abandoned and serves no public purpose. 2. The interstate highway sign should be moved further north and have a smaller sign added that states something like “Interstate 400 feet ahead” immediately prior to the abandoned road. 3. Since the road is classified as “Abandoned’ then it is time to remove the numerous speed limit signs, mile markers, and roadway striping that is on the road.

As I found out, this is easier said than done.

This abandoned road is owned by three different transportation departments. Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) owns the first 300 feet of the roadway. Pima County Department of Transportation owns the next 1/4 mile of roadway. Then, the City of Tucson Department of Transportation owns and maintains the remaining 2 miles of road until it dead ends.

I contacted all three transportation agencies in order to determine what could be done about just possibly closing the road. Mike Graham is the public information officer for Tucson. He said, “Our maps show that at the end of the roadway is a utility structure belonging to a private company.” It turns out that Clear Channel Communications owns and operates a small electrical structure near the point where the road ends.

Since ADOT owns the first portion of the abandoned road, it would be their responsibility for ensuring traffic does not make the turn in error. C.T. Revere is a senior community relations officer with ADOT and stated, “Putting a gate up isn’t possible since we need to ensure that this private company still has access to their business interests.”

Nick sent a request to ADOT to change the confusing signs in order to help others. ADOT responded and said they are reviewing his recommendations and will get back with him. We will keep readers updated with any changes.

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Trent Thomas

Trent enjoys writing about what effects our local community. He has served in the U.S. Army, worked as a business manager and even been an airline pilot. He and his family have lived in Vail since 2007.