Tucson can't wait for improvements to "absolutely critical" freeway interchanges, business leaders told transportation officials Friday.
The Arizona Department of Transportation is planning to delay two major interchange projects in the Tucson area, at Interstate 19 and Ajo Way and at Interstate 10 and Ina Road, partly to solve a problem with dwindling revenue.
The state Transportation Board held a public hearing on the plans in Tucson on Friday.
ADOT wants to cut $350 million from its five-year construction plan to match lower-than-expected revenue forecasts. About $35 million of that would come from projects in the Tucson metro area.
ADOT staff recommends delaying the new Ina interchange until fiscal 2017 and delaying the Ajo interchange until fiscal 2018 - one additional year for each, although Ajo has already been delayed once from its original 2014 start.
"It's very important that we accelerate the improvements to the Ajo interchange on I-19," Diamond Ventures Vice President Priscilla Storm told the board.
"These freeway interchanges are absolutely critical" for safety and economic development, said Walter Richter, Southwest Gas administrator and Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities board member.
Other business leaders spoke in support of the projects, including representatives from multiple chambers of commerce and construction industry groups.
Cherie Campbell, interim executive director at the Pima Association of Governments, said her staff has been working with ADOT staff to make sure local priorities are maintained, and the two sides are meeting next week.
PAG will bring a plan to restore the Ajo project to an earlier point in the ADOT program to help solve severe safety and congestion problems, she said.
PAG's plan also will include keeping the Ina project on schedule in the Regional Transportation Authority plan, she said, because 60 percent of the project funding is RTA money and voters approved the project to begin in 2016.
Meanwhile, Tucson's representative to the state Transportation Board, Steve Christy, is trying to tackle the problem from the revenue side.
The state Legislature has been diverting gas-tax money that's meant for road projects to other state agencies to help solve its own budget problems.
Christy issued a report Friday that shows the Tucson metro area stands to lose nearly $17 million in road funding in fiscal 2014 if the diversions continue.
Christy is trying to build support to stop the diversions, he said.
Give ADOT your two cents
ADOT is accepting public comments on the five-year construction plan at FiveYearProgram@azdot.gov or at (855) 712-8530.
Contact reporter Becky Pallack at email@example.com or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack