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Transport stimulus: At least $58M for Pima?

Citizen Staff Writer



Southern Arizona’s share of $522 million in stimulus package transportation funds remains to be seen, and determining it will require negotiations at the State Transportation Board, local officials said Thursday.

“Whatever we get, we’ll take it,” said Si Schorr, a member of the Pima Association of Governments Regional Council who also represents Pima County on the state board.

On Friday, the state board will discuss several scenarios for distributing the $522 million to counties. Under six possible breakdowns Schorr presented to PAG on Thursday, Pima County could get as little as 11 percent or as much as 18 percent – anywhere from $58 million to $92 million.

PAG would be responsible for distributing between $22 million to $36 million of that, and the state would divvy up the rest in Pima County, Schorr said.

The PAG council voted Thursday on a project list to be presented to the state board. It includes 63 road and public transit projects, prioritized by the Regional Transportation Authority, that can be ready for construction within 90 days.

The top priorities on the list were chosen so that each municipality and Native American tribe in the county would get something, said John Liosatos, the RTA’s planning manager.

Pavement improvements on arterial streets and roads (smaller roads are not eligible) are high on the list, along with bike lanes, a path at Hohokam Middle School and a bridge improvement for Sabino Canyon Road over Tanque Verde Wash.

Lower on the list are $10 million for bus replacements, $8 million to widen Camino Seco from Broadway to Speedway Boulevard and $75 million for a street car system in Tucson.

Most of the projects are not major projects, because smaller ones are easier to get started quickly, Liosatos said.

“Whatever you do, it has to be fast,” Liosatos said.

One fight will be with the Maricopa Association of Governments, the regional planner for Phoenix, said RTA Executive Director Gary Hayes.

“They’re trying to recuperate monies that were taken away two years ago (by the Legislature). My view is that that has nothing to do with this. This is a clean slate,” Hayes said.

A key goal of the work is to stimulate jobs, so Schorr has asked for an analysis of the work to determine what would offer the most employment, he said.

Generally, the stimulus bill will create or save 71,000 jobs in Arizona, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said during a meeting in Tucson Wednesday.

The package will keep unemployment from drifting above 10 percent during 2010, Giffords said, citing numbers from Moody’s Investor Services, a financial analysis firm.

It could be weeks before southern Arizona officials know their share of the stimulus money, Liosatos said.

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