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Az’s 5-year transportation plan may be curtailed

Economic woes sweeping the nation have forced the State Transportation Board to consider curtailing its five-year plan.

A draft plan presented to the board Friday would carry the Department of Transportation through fiscal 2014.

It includes a handful of new projects, but scores of projects across the state would be deferred to stretch dollars, said Rakesh Tripathi, ADOT’s planning director.

“We’re talking about taking a four-year program and stretching it into a fifth year,” Tripathi told the board.

By pushing some projects off a year or two, the board could save $602 million – the amount of an expected revenue shortfall – over five years, Tripathi said.

Normally, the five-year plan includes a new year of projects each year.

“This year, that opportunity doesn’t exist,” Tripathi said.

Virtually every area of transportation would take a hit under the proposal. Bridges, minor pavement work and construction, archaeological studies, planning and engineering and sign upkeep would all be reduced statewide.

Fifteen projects in and around Tucson would be delayed, including a reconstruction of the Ina Road exit on Interstate 10 (fiscal 2011 instead of fiscal 2010), widening of Interstate 19 from Valencia Road to Ajo Way (fiscal 2014 instead of fiscal 2013) and widening of the I-10 bridge over Valencia Road (fiscal 2014 instead of fiscal 2013).

Fourteen Pima County projects would remain on track, including further study of an I-10 bypass west of Tucson (fiscal 2010), widening of I-19 from Ajo Way to San Xavier Road (fiscal 2013) and reconstruction of the Irvington Road I-19 interchange.

The plan will be reviewed by the board, then vetted through public hearings. The board set a Pima County hearing for June 5, though no location was chosen.

The cuts will be necessary to offset reduced revenue and about $400 million in funds stripped from ADOT by the Legislature, said Finance Director John McGee.

“That is putting a lot of stress on the department and its ability to do business as usual,” McGee said.

In a separate action, the board approved a new $50.4 million exit on Interstate 10 between Avra Valley Road and Cortaro Road.

That project will create a new link between parts of Marana east and west of I-10. The project, expected to be completed in 2010. The job will boost Marana’s economy two ways, said Mayor Ed Honea.

First, it will employ 300-400 workers, he said.

“It’s also going to serve as a catalyst for the Spectrum Marana regional mall,” Honea said.

That 1.5 million square foot shopping center would pump sales tax revenue into the city, he said.

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