The county will add a 10-foot paved path along this section of the Rillito.

Pima County has started construction on a piece of the Rillito River path which has long been considered a missing link for cyclists who use the path.

Once complete, a 10-foot wide path will replace the rutted dirt on the north side of the river between Hacienda del Sol and Country Club. It is scheduled to be completed sometime in June. (Check the interactive map below)

That section of the path has been left unpaved for years because of drainage issues and has prevented cyclists from being able to ride the north side from La Cholla to Country Club without having to ride on the dirt or attempt to navigate the Campbell Avenue bridge.

Matt Zoll, Pima County’s bicycle and pedestrian program manager, said the county’s goal for the entire river park system is to provide a paved path with a dirt path next to it, but this section isn’t wide enough for that.

In order to provide both a paved and dirt path, Zoll said they will have to push back the large walls of dirt and acquire several pieces of property, which is cost-prohibitive given the $415,000 budget from the RTA, but is still the county’s goal in the long term.

Because of the construction on the north side of the path, the county has decided to delay the start of the paving project on the south side of the Rillito between Campbell and Mountain Avenues.

The reason for the delay was to allow people to use the south side of the Rillito rather than have to use the Campbell Avenue bridge to cross back to the north side.

What hasn’t been decided is whether the county will remove the signs prohibiting bicycles between Campbell Avenue and Mountain Avenue during the north side construction.

Nanette Slusser, the Pima County assistant county administrator, said it is something they have been discussing at length.

“We’ve got pros and cons,” Slusser said. “Everybody seems to be very passionate about what we do.”

She said they would likely have a decision next week.

Zoll said if the signs are removed they will have to work to keep it safe.

“The only thing that I really cautioned is that we’ve got to make sure we slow people way the heck down,” Zoll said.

Zoll said they have also been working with the city to improve the Campbell Avenue bridge for cyclists.

He said several options have been discussed, but they haven’t identified a solution yet.

Tom Thivener, the City of Tucson’s bicycle and pedestrian program manager said the city has a grant to study engineering options for long-term improvements to the bridge, but they haven’t found any short-term fixes.

“There is really no quick engineering solution,” Thivener said. “It is a tough nut to crunch.”

The county is also currently building a new paved section of path on the south side of the Rillito between Mountain and First Avenue. Lauren Harvey, the project manager for the project, said that project should be completed in June.

Click on each colored line for more info about the project.

View Rillito Projects in a larger map

14 thoughts on “County starts construction on Rillito River missing link”
  1. The remaining section from a small wash north to Speedway on the west side Pantano path has been purchased and there is activity. Does anyone know the schedule for the bridge over the small wash and paving of the path?

  2. How about adding bike lanes on the Campbell bridge by removing the center left turn lane? There’s no place to turn left on a bridge.

  3. Hi Bob,

    We pursued some RTA funding a while back for right-of-way and design for that section of the Pantano from Speedway to 5th Street. We’ve secured most of the ROW and are ready to start on design soon. Also last year we pursued a Transportation Enhancements grant for construction funding and were successful in getting that. You can see the grant and others we’ve won over the past several years on our website,

    Because of the federal process, it’s going to take a few years for design and all clearances before we can go to construction. As we get into design, there will be opportunity for public involvement and it would be great to have you and other folks you know helping out with the project to make it as good as possible. Please contact me for more information.


  4. Yes Dan, although they’re long-term because of major right-of-way issues and need for bank protection in some areas. We hope to both continue eastward on the Tanque Verde wash and southeast on Pantano. We are in the planning process right now. In terms of connecting the Rillito to the Pantano, there may be some on-street interim connection opportunities with the City of Tucson now so we’re looking into that.


  5. That is one of the possible options Dan. Tom and I have been discussing some alternatives. The left turn lane on the bridge sometimes has a car or two in it as northbound traffic is waiting to turn into the driveway entrance to the office park located at the northwest side. This is all city of Tucson jurisdiction but the County will try to help with funding any possible improvements to make the bridge accessible.

    This is I believe the only bridge in the region across a river or major wash where we don’t have both sidewalks and bike lanes, so it’s a definite goal to improve this. Even when we get the north bank completed and the south bank open to cyclists between Mountain and Campbell, there will still be a number of cyclists who need to use the Campbell bridge to access work sites, shopping, and residences on each side. The Campbell route would also connect to the River Road bike lanes.


  6. In regards to the work being done on existing path. Why aren’t the approches to the Country Club bridge repaired. I inline skate as well as bike and the bridge approach is very dangerous for skaters.

  7. Those are supposed to be repaved as part of the improvements Jim. For now we need to of course leave that section open until most of the construction project is done, then as we finish up the paving we’ll overlay that section too.


  8. Quote—
    Zoll said if the signs are removed they will have to work to keep it safe.

    “The only thing that I really cautioned is that we’ve got to make sure we slow people way the heck down,” Zoll said.

    The fact that it’s still just a narrow dirt path doesn’t accomplish that already?

  9. Actually, I totally agree Scott. Even with that though, we get some major complaints today from some residents about cyclists riding through there, even if they’re only going about 10 or 12 mph. I personally like the dirt through there but in order to have a continuous pathway system that meets the ADA we need a paved path. In this case too we’ll be able to provide a separate decomposed granite path.

    When construction is going on with the Hacienda del Sol/Country Club project, we may have up to twice as many people using that south bank section as we have today. That’s why in particular, if cyclists are permitted to ride west of Campbell on the south side, they need to keep the speeds slow.

    Even after we pave the south bank through that section though, we’re going to caution cyclists to keep the speeds down in particular through that half-mile. The path will be narrower than our standard section, still meeting requirements, but with the multiple path users it will be tight.


  10. Saw the work being done on the north side section today. I’m very pleased that this section is going to be paved as it was definitely a treacherous area for bike commuters. I wonder though, if the north section is going to be completed, why develop the south section between Campbell and 1st? Why not just leave it as is? It seems redundant to build paths on both sides, especially given the combined use traffic at any one period of time isn’t that high. Anyways, I’m just curious.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.