Tucson on a bumpy road to becoming modern city

Anyone who has spent time driving in Tucson knows that our roads are sub-par.

The Pima Association of Governments, a federally funded local nonprofit that focuses on metropolitan planning, recently released a “report card” in which it confirmed what everyone already knows: Tucson’s roads are terrible.

The report found that 52.4 percent of the city’s roads are in poor condition, about 43 percent are in fair to good condition, and only 4.5 percent of Tucson’s roads are “excellent.”

In addition, the study gave a congestion grade of “F” to 15 percent of the city’s intersections, indicating they had reported morning rush-hour delays of 80 seconds or more. The worst intersection in Tucson is Ajo Way and Alvernon Way, with an average delay of 3.3 minutes per vehicle.

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It is commendable that this report recognizes the problems facing Tucson’s infrastructure, especially considering that Phoenix’s equivalent of the PAG, the Maricopa Association of Governments, has not released a report that takes such a frank look at road conditions and congestion. But simply recognizing the problem is not enough. It’s about time that the city does something to fix Tucson’s roads.

As Tucson’s image improves through new business developments and projects such as the Tucson Modern Streetcar, the road systems must improve with it. This is necessary not only for the city to deal with increased traffic, but also to truly project a modern image.

Downtown Tucson’s continuing development will feed congestion, as will the streetcar. Even though the number of drivers may decrease in the downtown area, the streetcar will cause congestion problems for those who continue to drive there. The streetcar does not go everywhere, so commuters from other parts of Tucson will still crowd the roads.

Even with Tucson’s numerous ongoing infrastructure projects, such as the work being done at Grant and Oracle Roads and the Prince Road exit off I-10, and the many roads that will be resurfaced as a result of the streetcar project, there is still much to be done. Tucson’s streets are riddled with potholes, a virtual minefield for drivers. This can be a huge inconvenience to drivers and cost them hundreds in repairs to damaged tires, rims and shocks.

The budget for transportation is the highest of all of the city’s departments. The total actual budget for transportation was $198,956,290 in 2012. The second-highest budget was that for water, at $192,510,362. Of course, not all of that money goes toward repairs. A combined $27,167,869 was allocated to the streets and traffic maintenance, planning, and engineering programs in 2012.

Also, much of the road work that is being done is not on roads around the UA. Work is being done on many other roads in Tucson, but not on those that many students use regularly.

While the PAG is funded with federal highway money and is more of a planning organization than an agency of the local government, many of its executive staff are also members of local government. Tucson mayor Jonathan Rothschild is the chair of the governing body of the organization, for example, and other area mayors and officials also serve in PAG.

Their powerful positions in the Pima County government mean that they have the ability to make the right recommendations to improve Tucson’s infrastructure. Let’s just hope that the people who commissioned this report respond to its findings.

—David Weissman is a journalism junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.


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