NOGALES, Ariz. - Two big Tucson-area transportation projects are at risk of more delays and cuts due to reduced revenue forecasts at the Arizona Department of Transportation.
Gas tax (Highway User Revenue Fund) money is coming in at 2004 levels, but forecasts showed an upswing in money available for highway construction, said Kristine Ward, ADOT's chief financial officer.
Now those forecasts have been revised down, and ADOT needs to cut $350 million out of its 2016 and 2017 construction plans, she told the State Transportation Board at a meeting in Nogales Friday.
For the Tucson area, that could mean about $35 million in projects could be delayed or cut.
"We're very concerned about the cuts that we've been asked to do," said Cherie Campbell, interim executive director of the Pima Association of Governments, who spoke for Tucson at the meeting. "It would involve moving back a couple projects that are very critical. One is the Ina Road traffic interchange, which would move back one year in our program," she said.
That would leave the Regional Transportation Authority plan to start the Ina Road project before 2016 behind schedule and out of conformance with the voter-approved plan and schedule, she said.
"It would also defer, for the second time, another major project that is important in terms of safety at Ajo and Interstate 19," Campbell said.
The project was previously pushed from 2014 to 2017 on ADOT's to-do list.
Interchange projects on Interstate 10 at Kino Parkway, Valencia Road and Wilmot Road got pushed off the list entirely in a previous round of revenue forecast revisions.
Tucson's representative to the state Transportation Board, Steve Christy, said Tucson has already taken a hit, and it's another area's turn to step up to the plate.
While officials are only in the discussion phase about what projects may be delayed, some of the revenue picture depends on the budget-balancing actions of the Legislature.
Ward said the forecast model assumes the state will sweep funds meant for roads to pay for other services, including the Highway Patrol.
Campbell took issue with that, saying, "We're kind of making that easy by just assuming that's going to happen every year."
She said the public and lawmakers need to know fund sweeps have real impacts on real road projects.
Christy asked ADOT officials to present information about what projects are cut due to fund sweeps at a future meeting.
The drop in gas-tax revenue available for projects stems from inflation, better fuel economy on vehicles and people driving fewer miles because of the poor economy, said ADOT director John Halikowski. And fund sweeps happen because there isn't enough money to pay for all the state's services, he said.
Looking at the five-year construction plan, Transportation Department officials have to balance a variety of needs statewide, he said.
The agency plans to hold a series of public meetings in the spring and get comment. One will be in Tucson.
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