The Pima County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a contract to begin the design for a new road realignment near Raytheon Missile Systems that will help protect jobs at our region’s largest private employer, while allowing for possible future expansion.
Supervisors approved a $1.7 million planning and design contract to start the process of realigning Hughes Access Road. Ultimately, the $8 million project will relocate Hughes Access Road from Nogales Highway to Alvernon Way.
Relocating a roughly four-mile segment of the existing road approximately 2,500 feet to the south has several benefits that will help address two ongoing concerns: a lack of buffer space for Raytheon operations and an inability to expand.
Pima County has long recognized the important role Raytheon plays in the local economy and in 2012 purchased nearly 400 acres south of the facility to help address urban encroachment. More intervention is needed.
Simply put, there are too many drivers driving too close to existing operations that may be threatened by the high volume of public traffic. Moving the road alignment helps address that issue, while providing Raytheon additional flexibility to preserve or expand their programs in the future.
The project will improve access throughout the general area. It also will serve as the backbone for a new, 10-mile aerospace and defense parkway, while allowing for compatible development in a new potential aerospace and defense research and business park. Along with the construction will come significant improvements to the roadway, including turn lanes, cross culverts for low-flow drainage, channel drainage, signals, and seeding.
“Pima County remains committed to protecting Raytheon’s 10,000-plus existing jobs while also creating an overall environment that is attractive for new economic growth opportunities, whether for existing employers or for new ones,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Ramón Valadez.
In other action, the Board expressed support for the updated Tucson Airport Authority’s Master Plan. It has been clearly established that an international airport is a key driver in building economic development centers, with a recent University of Arizona Eller College study determining the airport supports 35,000 jobs in the community and has an economic impact of more than $3.2 billion.
The Authority has not only expressed its support for the Aerospace and Defense Corridor Initiative, but also for the County’s Economic Development Action Plan, which includes the protection and buffering of Raytheon.
The Board requested that the Federal Aviation Administration quickly approve the plan updates, including the expansion of a parallel runway and development of lands around the airport for suitable commercial, industrial, energy and specialty uses.