Ina Road

Proposition 463 sought to distribute $430 million across Pima County for road repairs, including $200.7 million for Tucson and $167 million for unincorporated areas.

Roadways are the backbone of our economy and must provide safe and convenient travel throughout the community. Unfortunately, many of our roads are crumbling or in failed condition due to lack of proper maintenance funding. Previously approved bond funds were necessarily spent on additional traffic carrying capacity to relieve congestion and delay brought about by the tremendous growth that occurred in the region in recent years. Capacity projects are also necessary to mitigate air pollution and comply with federal environmental mandates.

However, no additional funds were made available in the last 25-plus years to pay for all of our needs, including new capacity, regular reconstruction and routine maintenance and preservation. The net result was a trade-off of congestion relief in exchange for deferred maintenance on many local and collector roads.

Poorly maintained roads increase travel time and fuel consumption, increase wear and tear on vehicles, and diminish safety for all road users, including pedestrians and bicyclists. Simply stated, poorly maintained roads are unsafe, costly, and stress inducing. Bad roads also discourage economic development, employment growth and tourism throughout the region.

Recent advances have been made to encourage major employers to relocate to our region (i.e., Caterpillar). This provides new jobs, but cannot be sustained without improving to the dire condition of our roadways. And this requires additional funding.

Current funding sources have been relatively static and are insufficient to both build new capacity and maintain the extensive and expanding network. Arizona’s gas tax is the traditional revenue source, but it has not been raised since 1991 and is not indexed against inflation. Further, the Legislature has continuously raided the Highway Users Revenue Fund for other purposes. Pima County exhausted all available funding options for improving the condition of our roads, including a county sales tax, a dedicated property tax for roads and requesting the legislature to increase the gas tax.

There is no hope that the state gas tax or other funding sources will be increased anytime soon. The county and most of the municipalities already impose a hefty road impact fee on new development, which must be used exclusively for new capacity . These impact fees have been used to help fund many of the major roadway projects in the region.

One major advantage of local funding such as bonds is that all of the funds remain here. Conversely, only about half of the state gas tax is shared with local agencies; the state keeps the other half for its use. Furthermore, the bond proceeds will be shared equitably with all jurisdictions in the region and thus, no matter where you live, you will benefit from the availability of these roadway repair monies.

Pima County estimates that the bonds will not cause an increase in property taxes, and will greatly lower the cost of road repair compared with the costs of continued deterioration. The bonds will be used to improve all paved roads, especially local roads that directly access your homes and businesses and connect to the arterial network.

This program will be much more cost effective than a continued “do little” approach. At the individual level, a nationally-recognized study calculated how much more it costs us to drive on streets in our region due to poor maintenance — and it’s a whopping $542 per year, per driver. If Proposition 463 is approved, we can each save about $542 per year at no additional cost and finally have safer roads that are smooth and comfortable to drive.

At the risk of oversimplification, this is truly a no-brainer. As transportation professionals with 92 years of combined experience, we urge you to support Proposition 463.

Priscilla Sawyer Cornelio is an engineer who retired a year ago as director of transportation for Pima County. John Bernal retired from Pima County after 30 years of service in 2017 as Deputy County Administrator for Public Works.