With a $268 million price tag to bring roads throughout Pima County up to standard, Pima County Supervisors gave the nod Tuesday to pursue a host of solutions that could help secure additional resources.
The Board agreed on a 4-1 vote to a series of actions outlined by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, including continuing to allocate $5 million annually from the general fund, over and above what the Department of Transportation already sets aside for road maintenance.
The board also agreed to ask the Legislature to consider:
- Returning some or all of the $39 million in state-shared revenues swept from Pima County over the past decade to help shore up the state budget;
- Maintaining an existing one-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax currently earmarked for the cleanup of underground storage tanks, but steering it instead to pavement repair and maintenance;
- Raising the state gas tax by 10 cents to come into line with surrounding states. Arizona’s gasoline tax is 19 cents per gallon, which has remained the same since 1991.
The County Administrator commended the Board for its work to improve transportation. The Board last year steered $20 million into road repair, in addition to routine expenditures, by using fund balances and general fund monies. But even that significant investment addressed just 8 percent of the County’s overall road repair price tag, Huckelberry cautioned. Even though the County has spent $289 million on improving road capacity over the past five years, and has “done a good job of scrounging and getting every dollar we can,” he said maintenance issues remain thorny.
“We can work around the edges of this problem, but all we can do is put Band-Aids on things for the next couple years unless we confront our problems in a straightforward manner,” he said.
The Board also agreed to continue exploring any other revenue streams that might make sense. Supervisor Richard Elías noted that the same dollar of revenues in 1991 can now only buy 51 cents of highway improvements, given inflation. “It’s a difficult situation.”
While it’s clear there is no overnight fix, Supervisor Sharon Bronson said the conversation needs to begin. “If we don’t have that courage to start the conversation, we’re never going to solve the problem.”
To read the full report, please visit http://www.pima.gov/Administration/bd-transportation%20funding%20report.pdf.