If you've driven down 22nd Street or Kolb Road or Tucson Boulevard lately, you may have noticed something: These roads don't suck.
That's because Tucsonans have said yes to road bonds and a temporary sales tax in recent years—and as a result, long-neglected roads are being fixed.
Here's the deal: Road repairs are not free. And you can blame our road problems on whatever you want—misplaced priorities, a hangover from too many years of go-go growth without impact fees, the repeated diversion of gas taxes by the state government—but the bottom line is: Pima County estimates bringing all the roads up to par will cost somewhere around a billion dollars.
This is a not a problem that will be solved overnight or by not funding a few soccer fields or whatever other easy solution that someone is trying to sell you.
It's going to take one thing: Money.
Pima County has studied this issue ad nauseam. Sure, it would be great to hike the gas tax so that drivers pay for roads, or the sales tax so that tourists share the burden, or the something-other-people-pay tax in order to raise money for road repair. But state lawmakers have no appetite to raise gas taxes (despite the looming $62 billion shortfall to keep our highway system in order through 2035). The federal government won't be sending a lot of money to help us fix our major arterials, our collector streets or our residential roads. And, sadly, Mexico isn't going to pay for it, either.
This one is on Pima County residents.
Here's the good news: We can do it without increasing our tax rates. Because Pima County has been paying down bond debt at a rapid clip, it can now put more on the credit card without needing to hike tax rates. And while borrowing money to fix roads is hardly an optimal strategy, these will be short-term loans (on average, the debt will be paid back in roughly 3.5 years) so the interest payments will not be crippling.
The funding will be spread throughout the municipalities based on how much money they pay in property taxes, so the City of Tucson will get $200 million, unincorporated Pima County will get $167 million, Marana will get $26 million, Oro Valley will get $23 million, Sahuarita will get $12 million and South Tucson will get $1.8 million.
In the last 12 years, voters have said yes to three ballot measures to pay for transportation improvements.
You've said yes to a half-cent sales tax for the Regional Transportation Authority, which has led to major road widening, transit projects, bike lanes and pedestrian features. The money has been spent without any major scandals.
You've said yes to a road bond package for the City of Tucson that repaired many of Tucson's major streets, ahead of schedule and under budget.
You've said yes to temporary half-cent sales tax in the City of Tucson that is continuing the work started by the road bonds.
Now it's time to say yes one more time and get to work on everything from major streets to residential roads. The $430 million worth of repairs in this package is a major down-payment on the work this community needs to get the remaining roads fixed.
Better roads mean a better quality of life for those of us who live here. Better roads mean it's easier to bring new jobs to Pima County. Better roads mean more visitors will see us as a great place to vacation and bring their tourist dollars. And fixing those roads creates jobs for people who live here now.
The business community supports this. The tourism sector supports this. The firefighters support this. The Libs here at the Tucson Weekly support this.
The people who are against this are the same people who spend their time tearing down this place we call home. You can ride with them or you can ride with us. Sure, the ride with us will be little more expensive, but it's gonna be a lot smoother.
Vote Yes on Prop 463.
An earlier version of this editorial had an incorrect figure for the total amount of the bond package.