By Steve Christy
Four years ago, I made it very clear that fixing our roads was my top priority. Today, it still is. My efforts, after being elected to the Board of Supervisors, were focused on convincing Pima County Administration, as well as my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, that road repair needed to be prioritized as the County’s top issue of concern. This proved to be a daunting task.
Several of my colleagues on the Board did not agree with my assessments about the importance of fixing our roads. Much of their Districts are located within the City of Tucson or in other incorporated jurisdictions that had their own road repair programs and agendas. The Board debated several different scenarios over several different years that included continued leadership by the Regional Transportation Authority, as well as other various plans and funding mechanisms. That debate was inconclusive, yet remained an integral topic of discussion and concern among our area residents.
A model in Maricopa County, known as PAYGO, caught the eye of Pima County Administration. The implemented PAYGO plan allowed Maricopa County to virtually “write a check and pay cash” for a new Court House without tax raising or bond issuing. Simply described, in Pima County, with the winding down of the 1997 HURF Bond program and its associated debt along with a restructuring of DOT resources and staffing, would allow Pima County to allocate monies for road repair from its General Fund, the County’s “household account” and road repair would be on a “Pay-As-You-GO” basis.
Then COVID-19 struck.
State shared revenues and other funding sources are anticipated to dry up, and even disappear. Recession issues caused by the pandemic were never foreseen, nor could they have been, as just a mere eight months ago, the economy was on a record-breaking tear. Since that time, there has been some misguided speculation that the County’s road repair plan, which calls for repairing all roadways in unincorporated Pima County within ten years, has evaporated.
That is simply misinformation.
The Pima County PAYGO plan still calls for $301 Million from HURF revenues and $225 Million from the General Fund over the ten-year period. While it is true that Covid-19 is wreaking economic havoc on our businesses, schools, and in our community’s overall health, the Board of Supervisors-approved commitment to repairing our roads has been “double-downed” on by front-loading an additional $56 Million in road repair monies this fiscal year, which jump-starts and continues the momentum towards fixing our roads.
I can’t say enough positive things about how our Southeast Regional Council, through its Roads Working Group, has affected our area’s road repair work. Even with all the dissension, disagreement, and lack of funding, through SERC’s efforts, we have still managed to accomplish repairing over 70 miles of our District 4 roads – some 32 miles in the Vail/Corona de Tucson region alone, with more to come. The Colossal Cave Road, Wilmot Road, Sahuarita Road, Houghton Road and Valencia Road extension (with the Pantano bridge), along with numerous other road repair projects, illustrate what a unified community voice and effort can accomplish.
We have much more road repair to do that is for sure. However, anticipating and focusing on future road projects makes our region’s future brighter as the Vail/Corona de Tucson community continues to grow.