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PAG open houses to explain how it plans to spend $18 billion over 30 years on roads, buses, bikes and trains

The Pima Association of Governments task force that has spent the past two years updating the region’s long-range transportation plan has completed its work and is hitting the road to get public feedback.

The 2040 Regional Transportation Plan lays out how PAG plans to spend an estimated $18 billion over the next 30 years on road and transit projects. It was drafted by a task force made up of transportation planners from each PAG jurisdiction along with representatives from community groups such as the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection and the Pima Council on Aging.

Among the more ambitious projects on the list is extending the modern streetcar line north from the University of Arizona to the Tohono Tadai Transit Center east of Tucson Mall, and construction of a commuter rail line connecting Tucson to Phoenix.

Conspicuously absent from the list is any mention of an interstate freeway bypass, which PAG planners thought was too politically sensitive, and too tentative, to include. But it’s likely that if it gets built, its funding will suck up some of the $18 billion allotted to other projects in the 2040 plan.

The estimated $18 billion includes a lot of assumptions about where the money will come from with the biggest being a re-authorization by voters of the Regional Transportation Authority and the 1/2 cent sales tax that goes with it.

Voters passed the RTA and the sales tax in 2006 for a period of 20 years. The 2040 plan assumes voters in 2026 will renew the RTA for another 20 years, providing about $2.6 billion.

Other sources of revenue include impact and other development fees, state and federal gas tax allotments, lottery funds and vehicle taxes. Most of those funds are fairly stable, though there’s a question about whether development and growth over the next 40 years will be as robust as it’s been the past 40 years. And there’s some question as to whether gas taxes will fall off over the next few decades as the push for greater fuel economy and electric cars reduce the use of gasoline.

The revenue assumptions also include about $300 million in Congressional earmarks and nearly $2 billion from the state’s Department of Transportation discretionary fund. One would hope that the current economic distress that is causing such fiscal insanity at both the state and federal level will abate in the next 30 years and that these funds actually will be available. But as things stand right now, that seems a bit of a crap shoot.

Another ambitious part of the task force’s work is its wish to have the PAG council pass Implementation Strategies that state the goals and vision of the plan and tries to convince the PAG member jurisdictions to enact the plan as it’s been crafted.

It’s a fairly liberal document and it’s a good bet that as the PAG jurisdictions start spending money on these projects that some of the high-minded ideals of the plans – such as sustainable land use and environmental stewardship – could get jettisoned for political or fiscal reasons.

Nevertheless, it’s an interesting attempt to explain why these projects made the list and the community values and attitudes that underpin the plan.

To get a look at the draft plan and provide the task force with feedback, you can attend the following open houses:

• March 8, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Joyner Green Valley Library, 601 N. La Cañada Drive, Green Valley
• March 9, 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Randolph Clubhouse, 600 S. Alvernon Way.
• March 10, 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Foothills Mall, in the Food Court, 7401 N. La Cholla Blvd.

In the meantime, PAG has put an enormous amount of information about the 2040 plan online. There you will find a list of the proposed projects, maps, an explanation of the planning process and more.

Once the task force has collected public feedback it will amend the plan if necessary, then submit it for adoption to the PAG Council, which is made up of representatives from Pima County, Tucson, South Tucson, Oro Valley, Marana, Sahuarita, the state and the Pascua Yaqui and Tohono O’odham tribes. The plan must be adopted by PAG before the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

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