Differences threaten the future of RTA transport plans
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – When officials from Tucson, Pima County and Rio Nuevo met to dedicate the start of the Sunshine Mile project on East Broadway this week, issues surrounding the expansion project been little mentioned.
It took nearly 30 years to finally expand but the last eight have been hotly contested between the city and the Regional Transportation Authority, the RTA.
The RTA was passed by voters in 2006, a half-cent sales tax to build roads throughout the region, a two billion dollar undertaking.
But when they finally got down to the Broadway expansion project, there were big differences of opinion.
Under the RTA plan, Broadway was to be widened to eight lanes, but traffic patterns never materialized, so the city wanted it reduced to six lanes. The RTA said that is not what voters embraced.
But after seven controversial years, it was built to six lanes.
Now the city faces the same problem along First Avenue, from Grant Road to River Road. The RTA plan calls for six lanes, but traffic studies show that the current four lanes will do, along with some amenities.
The city and RTA are back. But this time there is more at stake.
The original RTA lasted 20 years and is coming to an end. How to maintain the program, called RTANext, is at stake.
Will voters approve another half cent for another 20 years.
“If I were to vote now, I would say let the city of Tucson do its own half-cent sales tax, just for the city of Tucson, for the next ten or twenty years and do our own complete streets ourselves. “, said Steve Kozachik, a member of the Ward Six Council.
There are other issues, such as huge increases in construction costs due to inflation. This means that the cost of city projects is almost double the cost of the original plan. Who pays for increases in inflation.
It’s a bone of contention.
“We fight them against inflation, we fight them against perimeter changes,” Kozachik said.
The RTA’s estimates will be $150 million short of its $2 billion target. So who recovers the shortfall?
Now, Pima County will address its issues with the RTA this week and vote Tuesday on whether to seek a third-party legal and financial review of the RTA and whether the county can or should advocate for necessary changes.
“I don’t know if anyone knows exactly where or what’s going on with the money, there seem to be transparency issues,” said District 2 County Supervisor Matt Heinz, who presented the material for a county vote. “So I think it’s really important to get more information now about what’s going on.”
Seems like most believe reaching a deal is vital if they want to sell it to the community that will determine if there’s an RTA Next or if all jurisdictions go it alone like they did in the past.
Regional cooperation has been beneficial to the region in carrying out much-needed projects. But it seems a bigger deal is needed to get everyone on the same page.
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