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  • Long-term solution needed for Pima County roads

    Apr 11, 2013 | Read More News
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    It is going to take $268 million and comprehensive transportation funding reform to bring Pima County’s poor roadsand failing roads up to standard. And that money isn’t readily available.

    In a new transportation funding report released Thursday, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry outlined a number of strategies that will help manage short-term needs,including a $5 million general fund appropriation in the coming budget year to target key areas for pavement preservation and maintenance, and a request that the Legislature return some or all of the state-shared gasoline tax revenues that were siphoned away from cities, towns and counties to balance the state budget.

    But ultimately, he said, with jurisdictions throughout the nation facing similar funding challenges, it is going to take a combined effort at the national, state and local levels to come up with a long-term fix.

    “There is no single recommendation that will significantly resolve our existing highway maintenance investment dilemma, let alone allow us to make the investments to prepare for future needs that will support economic vitality in the region, whether that isin air, transit or rail systems,” he said. “We need to focus on the problem using multiple strategies and continue to stress the need for long-term, stable and consistent funding for transportation.”

    There are a number of reasons that transportation funding hasn’t kept up with demand:

    • State gas tax: At 19 cents per gallon, which includes a penny for environmental remediation of underground storage tanks, the gas tax has not increased since 1991 and remains one of the lowest in the nation. Meanwhile, over that 22-year period, construction costs have increased by 96 percent. The same dollar of revenues in 1991 can now only buy 51 cents of highway improvements.
    • Economic conditions. State-shared transportation revenues from the gas tax in 2012 were $44 million – lower than at any time dating back to 1999. People just aren’t filling up like they used to. They may be intentionally driving less to save money on high gasoline costs, which have doubled since 2005. Their vehicles are 20 percent more efficient than they were 10 years ago, which means they use less gas but cause just as much wear-and-tear on the roads.
    • Fund sweeps. If the State Legislature had not swept shared transportation revenues to balance the budget, Pima County would have had $38 million more for highway maintenance and repair.

    Pima County Supervisors recently have invested approximately $20 million in road repair, but that has taken care of only 10percent of the problem. The County isn’t alone in trying to find answers to these challenges.

    In Virginia, lawmakers are pushing a plan that would restructure the gas tax from a flat cents-per-gallon fee to a percentage of sales that would rise over time with inflation. As of July, Wyoming will increase its gas tax from 14 cents to 24 cents. Oregon is weighing per-mile fees for high-efficiency vehicles. It is a discussion taking place across the nation.

    Among the additional steps in Arizona that can be taken in the near term to provide more revenues:

    • The state can steer the one-cent gas tax allocation for underground storage tanks to pavement repair and maintenance, given regulatory and technological advances that should diminish the magnitude of the contamination problem;
    • The state can increase the state gasoline tax by 10 cents to coincide with the 29.7-cents-per-gallon average gasoline tax of the surrounding states. It’s not popular. But it’s necessary.
    • Ensure that any future funding initiative, such as the renewal of the Regional Transportation Authority tax, allocates a significant portion of the revenues to pavement preservation and repairs.

    To read the report in its entirety, please visit http://www.pima.gov/Administration/bd-transportation%20funding%20report.pdf