Guest Column: Reason to be proud: Tucson is moving forward smartly on street repairs

2013-06-28T00:00:00Z 2013-06-28T16:50:17Z Guest Column: Reason to be proud: Tucson is moving forward smartly on street repairsRichard Miranda Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The fundamental mission for all city of Tucson employees is to provide excellent service delivery to our community.

Efficiency, effectiveness, quality, readiness, responsiveness and a positive, problem-solving focus: These are the expectations the community, the mayor and City Council, and I have established for our organization.

In the past year, the city has made significant progress in meeting these expectations. In particular, Tucson's Department of Transportation is a point of pride, with new leadership and focus. This department is achieving impressive results.

The efficient movement of goods and services, and maximum safety for commuters, transit riders, cyclists and pedestrians is critical to our local economy and quality of life. This includes the observable conditions of our streets. So together with the leadership of the mayor and council, we made street repair a top priority and have made investments to make change.

We began with the city's medians. They were in poor shape. Overgrown trees and tall weeds invaded the right of way. In response, the mayor and council and the city staff economized in other areas and partnered with the Transportation Department and private contractors to clean up the city's medians along our major streets.

Today the city's medians are in much better condition. Next year the city will begin repairing broken irrigation systems in our medians. This will reduce costs, improve water conservation in our desert city and again enhance the conditions of our medians.

In addition, last year the mayor and council recognized the need for a significant investment in road maintenance and repair. The mayor and council identified $20 million for our Pavement Preservation Program.

As a result, many of our major streets have been treated and repaired throughout the city since last summer. You can go to the city of Tucson Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CityofTucson) and see the map. Or you can go and see for yourself the smooth black surfaces and freshly painted striping on streets, bike lanes and crosswalks all over Tucson, including Speedway, Broadway, Stone, Park and Campbell avenues; Nogales Highway; and Swan, Golf Links, Drexel, Pantano and Harrison roads.

I want to especially thank the mayor and council for identifying the necessary funds; and Daryl Cole, our new transportation director, and the Transportation Department's Streets Maintenance Division for their excellent work. The compliments regarding this program are received daily.

The most critical step in addressing our street-maintenance backlog is the voter-approved street bond program, Proposition 409.

City voters understood that a small increase in property taxes to begin to fix our streets is a better investment than paying mechanics for parts and labor for replacing pothole-damaged tires, rims, axles, struts and CV boots. They voted "yes." Now it is time to get to work.

Proposition 409 will mean $20 million in street repair each year for the next five years. A Citizen Bond Oversight Committee is now in place to oversee the program. The city has created a short video to show, step by step, how our street-repair programs work; it is also on our Facebook page.

The city will kick off this street repair program Monday, on Tucson Boulevard between Valencia Road and Tucson International Airport. Many business people and visitors get their first impression of Tucson on this road, and now we will get it in excellent condition. Here, too, I want to thank our citizens and business owners for their confidence in the city and their commitment to investing in our road system and our local economy.

In conclusion, according to the Transportation Department, the most dangerous potholes that are reported are fixed within 48 hours. Most are fixed within three days. Therefore, with a commitment to service, the long delays on street repairs are in the past.

We still have a long way to go to improve all our streets - including our residential streets.

But I can assure Tucsonans that city leaders have examined decades of deferred street maintenance and learned the right lesson. The cost of reducing or neglecting street-maintenance programs is much greater than the savings from not doing the work in the first place.

Therefore, the city staff will work with the mayor and council to re-establish Tucson's regular street-maintenance program. This will mean lower overall costs and better quality streets for Tucsonans into the future.

Richard Miranda is the Tucson city manager.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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