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County approves $10M for road repair

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Alex Kulpinski and Alex Kulpinski | The Daily Wildcat Pima County is allocating $10 million to update roads in Tucson.

Pima County’s beaten roads are finally getting a facelift.

On Tuesday, The Pima County Board of Supervisors approved delegating $10 million to road repair. The county says it will spend about $5 million on repairs in the next few months alone.

In Pima County, the number of major streets in poor or failed condition has tripled in five years. There are 1,800 miles of roads to maintain.

“Over 61 percent of our roads are in the poor or failed category,” said Priscilla Cornelio, director of the Pima County Department of Transportation.

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But as more roads fall into disrepair, less funding is available for them. The county has 10 percent less state funding for roads this year than it had in 2002.

“A lot of that is related to these legislative sweeps where the state Legislature has taken local road money to balance their budget,” said Chuck Huckelberry, the county administrator. Huckelberry said part of this is due to people driving less frequently because of high gas prices. This causes there to be less revenue all around, he said.

Huckelberry provided the Board of Supervisors with 18 suggestions for how Pima County could fix its streets. Of the 18, Huckelberry favored five of the proposals that the board came up with.

One of these proposals was to spend $2.5 million from this year’s pavement repair fund and $2.5 million from next year’s fund to do 17 projects covering 27 miles of pavement on major streets. The second was to borrow $5 million from bond funds that have been assigned to other long-term road projects. This money could pay for an additional 77 miles of residential street repairs.

The borrowed money would need to be repaid in three to five years in order to complete the projects that the bonds were originally approved for, Huckelberry said.

Huckelberry and the board also considered increasing the transportation department’s general fund, selling bonds and using up to $5 million of the county’s $35 million general fund reserves. Taking from the reserves would be a last resort, Huckelberry added.

“I will be supporting Chuck’s five recommendations, but it’s more than potholes — it’s getting into resurfacing, because so many of these streets are just down to bedrock,” Supervisor Ann Day said.
Day said she does not want to fix the roads at the cost of facing more debt.

“This is way beyond potholes anymore; this is road reconstruction,” said Steve Kozachik, Ward Six Tucson City Council member. “Three, four, five years ago, we were talking about potholes. Now we’ve got a significant issue with respect to just rebuilding the roads, rebuilding the infrastructure.”

Kozachik said because this is a project that the county cannot afford, he wanted to take it to the voters.

“Ask the voters this: ‘Would you like to take 20 percent of the tax you’re already paying for building road capacity and allocate it for road construction?’” he asked.

Neither Day nor Huckelberry said they supported asking the voters — they agreed that Pima County officials must find the solution.

“The unfortunate thing is that we have 1,800 miles of road and with $10 million that we have we are doing 104 miles,” Cornelio said. “So, you can see we have a long way to go.”


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