Bedroom communities planned for Tucson and Phoenix are only 20 miles apart on Interstate 10.
Caught in the middle is Pinal County, a formerly rural area that is becoming one of the nation’s fastest-growing counties.
This underscores the changing face of Arizona’s inevitable continued growth. And it shows that old ideas for regional planning that encompasses only a single county are greatly outdated.
Accompanying articles on this page and the next show how the explosive growth of Pinal County is forcing its residents to make difficult decisions.
But impacts of that growth are not limited to the boundaries of Pinal County. We in Pima County and residents of Maricopa County will be affected by what Pinal residents do – and what they fail to do.
Land ownership is one of the key issues. More than three-quarters of the land in Pinal County is owned by Native American communities and the state and federal governments.
The state Land Department is Pinal’s most important property owner, holding one-third of the land. Thus any move to change the outdated way state land is managed will have a major impact on Pinal’s growth.
Transportation will certainly be one of the major challenges.
Fifty percent of Pinal’s workers leave the county for their jobs. That’s a function both of the limited jobs available in Pinal and the ability of residents to commute to either the Tucson or Phoenix metro areas.
Pinal planning is crucial. But that is only a start. It is imperative that Tucson and Pima County cooperate in planning and zoning, not only with one another, but also with Pinal, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties.
There are projections that the Nogales-Prescott corridor will become almost entirely urbanized. Therefore, what happens in Phoenix and even farther north will have an effect on us in Tucson.
Pinal Country residents understand the position in which they have been placed. A survey found that 9 of 10 agree that “if growth is not properly managed, the quality of life in Pinal County will get worse quickly.”
But Pinal’s problems belong to us all. We must join with Pinal County to initiate a collaborative conversation about transportation, land use and the many other factors that will affect the quality of life in this part of the state.
More on Pinal County: Robb: Growing pains evident in once-rural area
More on Pinal County: How to make the area a paradise, in 17 steps
More on Pinal County: Later generations will benefit from county’s foresight, county manager predicts