The entrance to the Loop connection under I-10.

Pima County’s Loop connecting the Santa Cruz river and the Rillito continues to be perfected.

An assessment of the 23-mile path has pointed out some areas of improvement, county bicycle and pedestrian manager Matt Zoll said.

Modifying posts, paving more stretches of the path and adding additional direct ramps to the recreational causeway are some of the projects coming about from the critique, Zoll said.


The county’s assessment considered the underpass that connects the Rillito to the Santa Cruz along Interstate 10 and the railroad tracks.

Raising the height of the 50-yard section is in order because of flooding issues. Rains have brought about surges of water measured at times of 8 feet or higher, Zoll said.

Tree branches, sand and other debris delivered by a swelling Rillito during monsoon rains have consistently blocked the pathway. Adding another half a foot in height will help mitigate the issue, according to the assessment.

The six additional inches “will make a pretty good difference,” Zoll said, adding that longer term studies will look at increasing the height even more along the vulnerable length.

Cyclists will need to consider flash floods and extreme rains when riding along this part of the loop, even with the additional height.

“Even if we raise it 6 feet it could still get inundated,” Zoll said.

Editor’s note: According to county officials, the connection is currently closed because of the recent flooding.


Another feature identified by the assessment is the need for more access points to the loop.

In about two weeks from Sept. 12, crews will have completed paving work on the south bank of the Rillito from Columbus Boulevard to Craycroft Road, Zoll said. The route will feature a “divided path” that gives users a choice of unpaved or paved travel.

Additional ramps that feed directly from a road to the loop are either being built or will be, Zoll said. Currently, at certain intersections, bike riders have to dismount to gain access. Direct ramps will allow for uninterrupted pedaling.

Some of the spots where the ramps to the Rillito are going include:

  • Flowing Wells (currently under construction)
  • First Avenue (in planning)
  • Oracle (“full assessment” needed)
  • La Cholla (completed)
  • La Cañada (under construction)


Riders who have taken the path along the Santa Cruz may have run into awkward posts that jut up from the pavement, splitting the path into narrow, sometimes hard-to-navigate passes.

Zoll says the assessment of the loop shows most of these posts are unnecessary. Originally, the posts were installed to prevent wayward drivers from access. Engineers tell Zoll, however, that the issue is “not a risk after all,” allowing for modification or complete removal of them.

About 90 percent of the posts are installed along the Santa Cruz where major roads intersect the path or where bridges span the wash. Zoll said there are about five to four bridges where these posts give cyclists about 4 feet of room to pass. These will be modified to give riders more room.

Two to three posts exist “that weren’t placed quite properly” that can be removed all together, Zoll said.

Posting additional signs along the path are also in the works to help guide riders to their destination.

Work on these modifications will be undertaken once the assessment is finalized.

The evaluation of the loop looked at the path along the Santa Cruz river from St. Mary’s Road to the Rillito connection; all the way along the Rillito’s south bank path to the Mountain Avenue access point.

A formal event celebrating the loop by the county is scheduled for Oct. 22.


Beyond improving the loop, Pima County is looking at other infrastructure improvements, including more bike lanes.

The county plans to add bike lanes along South County Club and Drexel roads. Crews will also be painting lanes for cyclists on Mary Ann Cleveland Way, a major route used to get to Colossal Cave, Zoll said.

This post was written by Brian White, Tucson Velo’s newest contributor. White is a graduate of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.

5 thoughts on “Loop assessed, improvements in the works”
  1. Thanks for all the information.  I have some questions that Matt may be able to answer.
    Is there a new date set for the reopening of the connector section under I-10?
    Also, when is that gate on the South bank of the Rillito just East of Oracle Rd. going to go away?
    And finally, when will the section between Mountain and Campbell be finished? 
    We’re coming down the home stretch on this and it’s getting exciting.  I suppose the rest of the loop getting done will be the actual home stretch, but I’ve been waiting for just this bit to be done for so long, it’s exciting to me.  29th to Ajo, is also a big thing for me.  I’m really looking forward to that getting done too.  On another loop related note, I rode the new section of the Julian wash path the other night.  It is very nice.  My daughter and I was out at night and was creeped out by some huge, strange, unrecognizable forms that jutted up from the desert.  We got close to them and realised they are massive photovoltaic panels.  Each one is the size of a drive-in theater screen.  I had my daughter hum the X-files theme music, perfect!

  2. Speaking of Ajo, how about painting some bike lanes from 12th and Ajo to 10th Street. It’s not that far and it would help a lot. There’s bushes and cracks there now and I don’t like riding in the street to avoid them. If I could schooch over to avoid them and still be safe that would be nicer. 

  3. The Santa Cruz section between Congress and Grant was interesting today.  The river was running fairly high.  The Grand underpass on the east bank was underwater.  Both sides were closed, I couldn’t see the west side.  Congress was blocked off but rideable, Speedway had obviously had a lot of water under the roadway on the bike path, lots of debris.  The West bank between St Mary’s and Speedway was fairly rough due to water having flowed over the pathway to get into the river.  It’s still under construction.  The river was moving quickly but you could already see the high water mark was maybe 1.5 to 2 feet higher than the flow at 5 o’clock.  It’s worth a look but fading quickly.  There will be a moon tonight.  Might be beautiful.  

  4. Hey 3wheeler. The underpass should be reopened by the 23rd, if all goes well. As to the gate east of Oracle, in our assessment we recommended converting it to a post in the center of the path with two outside posts at 5 to 6 feet of clearance. Normally we wouldn’t put in posts at underpasses but in this location the parking lot is directly accessible so we wouldn’t want drivers heading down in there. The south bank from Mtn to Campbell should be done within a few months but I’d have to check with our project manager to see what her latest estimate would be.

    Some clarification on the draft assessment: It’s not that the posts are not necessary along the Santa Cruz–our recommendation is to remove the posts only on the bridges and to cut the metal tabs down completely, filling in the holes with concrete. This is a recommendation that still needs to go through our Flood Control Department and Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Department. It is just a draft recommendation at this stage and needs to be evaluated further. The bridges are the locations where some engineering staff mentioned that the posts were not necessary.

    As to the posts at the roadway crossings, we likely still need most of those and our recommendation is a center post with 5 to 6 feet clearance to the outside posts. The concern has been with ATVs; however, some ATVs are as narrow as 36 inches but we can’t place posts that closely together or they’ll cause problems for cyclists, as we know. Engineering guidance recommends at least 5 feet of clearance.

  5. Matt, thanks much for the great information.  I rode the Rillito and Santa Cruz paths tonight and the connector looks like it’s already completed.  I rode thru there and all was smooth and there were no signs of construction.  The new concrete is very nice.  The river was running but it wasn’t flowing near the path because there are berms placed next to the path to keep it away, at least that’s my guess.  The tractor was still parked at the west end, blocking the way tho, and there was still tape at the east end.  Don’t tell anyone I rode under the tape and lifted my trike over the fence by the tractor.  Shhh. 
     The south ramp up to the freeway frontage road looks all done.  If the Jersey barriers were in place, we’d be in business.  Things are looking gooder and gooder.

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