The board of supervisors meeting on April 17 accomplished nothing as far as developing an acceptable plan to fix our roads. Unfortunately, this result (or lack thereof) came as no surprise and was not unexpected. Last October, I rolled out what I thought was the most simple, transparent, and effective road repair plan and accordingly, I entitled it, “Just Fix the Roads.”
It was based on the highly successful 2006 Regional Transportation Authority’s (RTA) Master Plan. This original plan, approved by the voters, was designed to address Pima County’s horrific traffic congestion crisis. After 12 years and hundreds of traffic enhancement and increased mobility projects, such as the Houghton Road Corridor expansion and improvement; the Tanque Verde Road expansion and improvement; and the Sabino Canyon extension bridge over the Pantano Wash improvement, the RTA has gained, and rightly so, the universal approval and confidence of Pima County residents.
My “Just Fix the Roads” plan was simply an enhancement of this plan to include maintenance and repair of all of Pima County’s roads and to address the funding needs to do so by increasing the current RTA road tax to one full cent. Since that time, after a number of town halls and community meetings held in our district, evidence was gathering that residents would be willing to pay the extra ½ cent in sales tax if they were given concrete assurances that the tax revenues generated would, in fact, go directly to road repair. This sentiment was recorded and reported to the board of supervisors by its Transportation and the Sales Tax Advisory Committees.
Yet, as road repair discussions progressed, the idea of a newly enacted countywide sales tax caused my plan to devolve into a cornucopia of individual supervisors’ interests and preference. One supervisor is dead set against any additional taxes for road repair. Yet, said supervisor offers no plan to actually fix our roads, citing there is already enough money within the county’s budget to fix all our roads. How we unlock and get that money – money that has never been identified – remains totally unclear. Another supervisor, citing an unfairness in a sales tax being placed upon economically challenged communities (regressive, is the term) is demanding as much as 20% of all sales tax revenue be earmarked for social service agencies to assist those communities. A third supervisor wants to use sales tax to reduce property taxes on a graduating scale over time, and the fourth supervisor is open, yet still uncommitted to any specific remedy to fix the roads, though agrees that we need to fix our roads.
As you can see, this whole road repair issue has become drastically convoluted, muddied and watered down. Accordingly, these individual demands being made by several supervisors has left me at the point where I am unable to support any modifications, additions, or changes to my original “Just Fix the Roads” plan presented last fall. Therefore, at this time we are no further advanced on solving our road repair problems today then we were six months ago. Our only hope is the passage of Senate Bill 1147 at the State Capitol, and that will be a challenge as well.
There is one, albeit small, bit of good news. The board of supervisors did approve a reallocation of funds earlier designated for bond repayments to be redirected for actual road repair. Our district, especially our Vail/Corona de Tucson and Tanque Verde Valley areas, will be given some relief for failed collector and arterial roads. This reallocation of funds will go to “mill and fill” on the following roads on the following estimated dates:
July 2018 – June 2019
Colossal Cave Road, between the recent improvement and I-10
Escalante Road, between Houghton and Old Spanish Trail
Houghton Road, between Camino Aurelia and Camino del Toro
July 2019 – June 2020
Old Spanish Trail, between Pistol Hill and Colossal Cave Mountain Park
These projects are in addition to the neighborhood and local road repair projects that we fought so hard for last December.
That is good news. I still firmly believe that fixing our roads is the single most important issue facing Pima County today. Even so, at this point, I see no pathway available or possible to address this problem of fixing the terrible condition of our roads. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t stop trying and won’t stop fighting to “Just Fix the Roads.”