Drivers will have to wait in congested traffic at the Interstate 19 interchange at Ajo Way for only two more years instead of five.
A compromise reached between the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Pima Association of Governments will split the project in two, moving the most critical elements to a 2015 construction project.
ADOT wanted to delay the interchange redo until 2018 to help solve a problem with lower-than-expected revenues.
But Tucson business leaders turned out en masse at a State Transportation Board meeting in Tucson last month to tell ADOT the Ajo interchange is a critical infrastructure need.
"Just ask the motorists who use it in that part of the community every day," said Steve Christy, Tucson's representative to the State Transportation Board and chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority Board.
"It's a very important need, not only from a commerce standpoint but also from a safety standpoint."
The $86 million project had already been pushed by ADOT from 2014 to 2017 in an earlier plan.
"Enough is enough. We need this project," Christy said. "We gave it up last year for the good of the whole. Now is our time to have that flag planted."
The compromise plan calls for a new interchange, Irvington Road ramp and neighborhood sound walls to be built in 2015, said Nathan Barrett, senior transportation planner at PAG.
"I think a lot of people are very excited that we're getting this interchange moved up from 2018," he said.
A second phase, which includes a new bridge over the Santa Cruz River, will stay in the 2018 plan, he said.
The solution, which was a team effort by ADOT and PAG leaders, also included changing the way the first phase is funded, Barrett said.
Most of the funding comes from the state's share of federal transportation money, as originally planned, but now it will also include some local gas-tax revenue that must be designated for state highways, he said.
That money was found in savings in several other projects and won't affect the scope of other local road-construction projects, he said.
Contact reporter Becky Pallack at email@example.com or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.