After being in place for over 10 years, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) plan and how it’s implemented is something that may not be clearly understood by the public, partly due to the passage of time or the inevitable arrival of new or coming-of-age residents.
First, the history of the RTA is relevant for the public to know. The RTA is a state-created taxing district, which allows the RTA to collect a half-cent sales tax approved by Pima County voters in May 2006. The FY 2007-2026 RTA plan was developed with input from a 35-member citizens committee representing diverse interests.
Before the RTA plan was placed on the ballot, it was endorsed by the Pima County Board of Supervisors, Tucson mayor and council, and all the other governing bodies of our other cities, towns and tribal governments.
The governing body that is solely responsible for implementing the RTA plan is the nine-member RTA Board, representing our local, state and tribal governments.
The RTA plan, which has roadway, transit, safety, and environmental and economic vitality elements, is phased over four, five-year construction periods over the 20 years. Roadway projects identified within the construction periods should start construction within that period.
Over the life of the RTA plan, projects must be identified and approved as part of a five-year regional transportation improvement program and long-range plan before getting the green light to move into construction or service. The five-year plan is updated annually and approved by the Regional Council of Pima Association of Governments, which manages the RTA.
The RTA can implement projects but it typically designates a lead agency to manage the design and construction of a project. This designation is confirmed through an intergovernmental agreement that complies with an RTA Administrative Code. The lead agencies, or jurisdictions, are required to adhere to the administrative code, including the five-year schedule as approved by the PAG Regional Council.
This five-year program identifies all local, state or federal funding needed to implement RTA projects. PAG Regional Council policy reserves the programming of available regional funding in FY 2020-26 to deliver RTA projects as promised to voters.
Earlier this year, a state performance audit required by the state Auditor’s General office found that the RTA is meeting its promise to voters and generally delivering projects on budget, on schedule. The audit stated that given current practices by the RTA, the RTA and its partners “will be able to deliver the remaining projects” as envisioned by the voters. The full audit report may be viewed on the RTA website.
Further, a citizens committee provides oversight of RTA project implementation and fiscal management. The committee annually reviews the RTA annual financial and project report, which will be published in two daily newspapers (including the Arizona Daily Star) during the last week of December.
The RTA is required to report its progress to the public. To date, the RTA has completed nearly 800 projects across the region to improve our transportation system’s efficiency, safety, reliability and travel choices.
The regional success story is one that continues to keep giving back to the region through collaborative efforts that began with plan development and continue today through collaborative partnerships with member jurisdictions and other regional stakeholders.
As discussion moves toward continuation of the RTA’s half-cent sales tax and development of a new plan, it’s helpful for others to understand how the RTA process works and why that is a critical component of the ongoing success of RTA project delivery.