Citizen Staff Writer
May 16, voters in Pima County will go to the polls to vote on a transportation plan for the next 20 years.
The plan is a project of the new Regional Transportation Authority, which includes the governments of Pima County, Tucson, Marana, Oro Valley, South Tucson, Sahuarita, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the Tohono O’odham Nation.
Voters will be asked two questions:
• Should the transportation plan be approved?
• Should the sales tax in Pima County be increased by one-half cent per dollar for 20 years to pay for projects in the plan?
The sales tax increase is expected to raise about $2.1 billion over its 20-year life.
Unless both questions are approved, the plan will not be adopted, and the additional sales tax will not be collected.
To vote in the election, voters must be registered by April 17. Early voting begins April 13. For information on where to vote, call the Pima County Division of Elections at
In this election – for the first time – voters will be required to show proof of identity before receiving a ballot.
Acceptable forms of ID include a valid Arizona drivers license, tribal enrollment card, government card, as well as a utility bill or bank statement dated within the previous 90 days, vehicle registration, Indian Census card, property tax statement or vehicle insurance card.
Today and the next three Mondays, the Tucson Citizen will examine different aspects of the RTA plan, giving supporters and opponents their say:
• Today: Roads are the major part of the plan, accounting for about 58 percent of the $2.1 billion. There are 35 major road improvement projects that include more than 200 new lane miles. Many of the new or wider roads will include landscaped medians, bus pullouts, bike lanes in both directions and sidewalks.
• April 3: The widening of East Grant Road is the single most expensive and controversial road project in the plan. It would turn Grant between North Oracle and North Swan roads into a six-lane street, requiring demolition of businesses and homes. The cost is estimated to be about $161 million.
• April 10: Transit improvements would account for about 27 percent of the plan’s total cost. There would be expanded weekday and evening service on Sun Tran routes, new neighborhood bus circulators and a new high-capacity streetcar system between the University of Arizona and downtown.
• April 17: About 15 percent of the money in the plan would be for other transportation projects such as safety improvements at intersections, bus pullouts, crosswalks, improved railroad crossings and “smart” traffic signals that sense traffic conditions. There also would be money for more bike lanes, sidewalks, wildlife linkages and small-business assistance.
For links to the RTA Web site and those of the plan’s supporters and opponents, go to this article online at www.tucsoncitizen.com/opinion.
Make growth pay for fair share of road work; vote no on new taxes
The Regional Transportation Authority says its plan is well-balanced. It proposes to spend 58 percent on road building, compared with 48 percent in the “road heavy” plan overwhelming rejected by voters in 2002.
Including other road funding, the RTA plan would spend 65 percent on roads. That hardly seems balanced.
It means there is much less funding for other critical needs to improve our community’s quality of life.
For example, in an RTA survey, citizens said they wanted 25 percent for pedestrian, bicycle and trail projects. But the plan includes only 3 percent. Apparently, the RTA does not care what the public wants.
We also need funding for road maintenance, but the RTA plan includes none.
When our existing roads are in poor condition and we can’t afford to fix them, building more roads is irresponsible. It’s like putting a big addition on the house when the roof is falling down.
The RTA says it cannot spend money on maintenance because the legislation will not allow it, but it wrote the legislation.
Local voters already have rejected a transportation sales tax four times. Yet once again, they propose the same old failed idea. How many times do we have to say “no” before they finally adopt better alternatives to pay for roads?
Growth and sprawl are the cause of our region’s transportation problems.
More homes on the fringes of Tucson will mean more cars, longer commutes, more congestion and the need for more roads.
The solution is to make new growth pay a fair share for building these roads – through construction sales taxes, impact fees, improvement districts and gasoline taxes.
Impact fees are too low throughout the region, and our leaders have never made a serious effort to raise the gas tax. The proposed sales tax would unfairly make the average taxpayer subsidize future growth, when our property taxes are increasing substantially.
Too many road projects in the RTA plan serve to benefit only special interests.
For example, $10 million to pave Wilmot Road south of Interstate 10, a dirt road where few people live, serves no regional transportation purpose.
Projects such as this are nothing but pork barrel for developers that will just make our transportation problems worse. It’s no wonder the special interests have contributed huge sums to the campaign.
Nine of 35 RTA projects were part of the 1997 Pima County transportation bond plan. Due to poor cost estimates, among other problems, voters did not get what they were promised.
Now they want us to pay a sales tax to complete these projects. Underestimated project costs in the RTA plan mean many may be delayed or never built. Once again taxpayers have no assurance we will actually get what we are promised.
We do need to do something. We need a plan that addresses our many critical transportation needs, that is fairly funded by a variety of user fees, that includes real planning to reduce congestion, and that assures projects will be completed.
This plan does none of those things. For more information: www.no1and2.org
Bonnie Poulos is active in community issues and has served on the Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee. Bill Heuisler is the Arizona chairman of Citizens for Tax Relief.
It takes all of us to pave the way to a better future for Tucson
Much like Tucson Medical Center – the world’s largest one-story hospital – Tucson has grown by expanding out into the space available.
While a feasible strategy to a point, sprawl creates transportation and infrastructure challenges.
Just as TMC staff work harder to navigate patients through our miles of hallways, so do Tucsonans navigate congested roadways and intersections every day. Neither situation is ideal.
More than two years ago, TMC began an effort to redevelop its main campus. We have worked hand in hand with our neighbors to develop a vision for the hospital campus that would provide state-of-the-art medical care and be well integrated into the community.
One question asked repeatedly by our neighbors is: “What about traffic?”
And we have part of the answer: TMC HealthCare will invest more than $200 million into the development of Tucson’s community hospital, including many improvements to our roadways, parking, trail system and more, to provide a well-coordinated approach to traffic at TMC.
What we can’t answer is the question about traffic along Grant Road, at the Craycroft intersection and beyond.
This is where you can be a part of the solution – by voting “yes” May 16 to approve a comprehensive regional transportation plan and half-cent sales tax.
Congestion is a real problem on the roads that lead to TMC, where more people go for 24-hour emergency care than any other place in southern Arizona. And as ambulance drivers can attest, it’s not just Grant Road that needs attention.
That’s why the Regional Transportation Authority plan includes 35 important road improvement projects throughout the county. The plan would improve roads from Tangerine Road in the north to the Interstate 19 frontage road near Green Valley and key intersections and corridors in-between.
Five of the most heavily traveled sections of town – Oracle Road, Grant Road, Speedway Boulevard, Broadway and 22nd Street – will receive significant improvements to ease the flow of traffic.
Up to 283,900 vehicles total drive on these sections of roads each day. The improvements will include adding turn lanes and bus pullouts, widening roads, adding lanes in key areas of congestion, and installing “smart” signal lights that sense the flow of traffic and react accordingly.
Arizona roads are some of the most dangerous in the nation, according to a 2004 report by the Arizona Society of Civil Engineers.
Pima County and Tucson got a D+ on safety from the society.
Fatality rates on roads in Tucson are worse than in many cities of similar and larger size. While alcohol use and speeding are a factor in accident rates, transportation infrastructure plays an important part. Many studies show improving intersections and widening roads reduce traffic fatalities and injuries.
About 58 percent of the plan, or a little more than $1.1 billion, is dedicated to adding more than 200 miles of new lanes to reduce congestion, ease the flow at busy intersections and make roads safer for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. It can’t happen soon enough.
And it’s not just about convenience. Congestion puts lives in danger. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, for every extra minute it takes to transport someone with a life-threatening condition to the emergency room, the chance of survival diminishes by 10 percent.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve waited long enough to deal with our growing transportation problems. Now is the time.
May 16, let’s vote “yes” on Questions 1 and 2. It won’t just make it easier to get across town; the improvements are vital to the safety and health of our community.
Frank Alvarez is president and CEO of Tucson Medical Center.
PROJECT COST* WHEN**
1 Tangerine, I-10 to La Cañada:
Widen to four lanes, divided $43.3 2, 3, 4
2 Camino de Mañana, Tangerine
to Linda Vista: New two-,
four-lane road $6.1 1
3 Twin Peaks, Silverbell to I-10:
Bridge over Santa Cruz, new
four-lane road $30.8 1
4 La Cholla, Tangerine to Magee:
Widen to four lanes, bridge over
Cañada del Oro $42.2 2, 4
5 Silverbell, Ina to Grant: Widen to
four lanes $42.7 2, 4
6 Railroad crossing at Ina:
Eliminate at-grade crossing $34.2 2
7 Magee/Cortaro Farms, La Cañada
to Thornydale: Widen to four-lane
divided $29.6 1
8 Sunset, Silverbell to I-10 to River:
New three-lane road $12.8 3
9 Railroad crossing at Ruthrauff:
Eliminate at-grade crossing $59.4 3
10 La Cholla, River to Ruthrauff:
Widen to six lanes divided $14.8 1
11 La Cañada, Calle Concordia to
River: Widen to four lanes with
equestrian trail $27.7 1
12 Magee, La Cañada to Oracle:
Widen to four lanes $5.9 2
13 First, Orange Grove to Ina:
Widen to four lanes $6.6 4
14 First, River to Grant: Widen to
six lanes $71.4 3
15 Railroad underpass at Grant:
Widen to six lanes $37.4 3
16 Downtown, I-10 to Broadway:
New four-lane road $76.1 2, 3
17 Broadway, Euclid to Country Club:
widen to six lanes plus two
dedicated bus lanes $42.1 2
18 Grant, Oracle to Swan: Widen to
six lanes $160.9 2, 3, 4
19 22nd Street, I-10 to Tucson
Blvd./Barraza: Widen to six lanes,
six-lane bridge over railroad tracks $105 2, 3
20 Barraza/Aviation, Palo Verde to I-10:
Right of way for future connection
with I-10 $19.6 –
21 Valencia, Ajo to Mark: Widen to
four lanes $15.1 2
22 Irvington, Santa Cruz River to east
of I-19: Improve intersections $9.8 4
23 Valencia, I-19 to Alvernon: Access
management improvement $9.8 4
24 Valencia, Alvernon to Kolb: Widen
to six lanes $43.3 2
25 Valencia, Kolb to Houghton: Widen
to six lanes $25.9 3
26 Kolb Road connection with Sabino
Canyon: New four-lane road $9.1 1
27 Tanque Verde, Catalina Highway to
Houghton: Widen to four lanes $12.8 1
28 Speedway, Camino Seco to
Houghton: Widen to four lanes $14.1 1
29 Broadway, Camino Seco to
Houghton: Widen to four lanes $6.6 3
30 22nd, Camino Seco to Houghton:
Widen to four lanes $6.1 4
31 Harrison, Golf Links to Irvington:
New bridge over Pantano $6.2 4
32 Houghton, I-10 to Tanque Verde:
Widen to four and six lanes with
new bridges $95.3 1, 3
33 Wilmot north of Sahuarita Road:
New two-lane road $9.8 2
34 Sahuarita Road to Country Club:
Widen to four lanes divided $30.8 1
35 I-19 frontage road, Continental
to Canoa: New two-lane road $3.9 1
TOTAL $1.17 billion
*Costs are in millions of dollars.
** Construction is broken down into four periods:
Period 1: FY 2007-11
Period 2: FY 2012-16
Period 3: 2017-21
Period 4: 2022-26
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Are there parts of the plan you like? Do you feel some projects are unneeded? Is the spending breakdown between roads and transit appropriate or off-base? Let us know and we’ll print your thoughts before the election.
• Mail: Letters to the editor, Tucson Citizen, P.O. Box 26767, Tucson, AZ 85726-6767
• E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org