If I had to rank the subjects of the calls my staff gets the most often at my office, numbers one and two are rezonings and transportation issues. I’m not sure which comes out on top, but those are by far the things that occupy most of the time here at the office.
Our Transportation Department is responsible for maintaining roads, sidewalks and our general streetscape in Tucson. They also maintain many of our washes.
The transportation department has 259 employees, 105 of whom are responsible for daily maintenance of the roadways. The rest are engineers, administrators, surveyors and inspectors.
How many roads are they responsible for? Well, it makes a big difference how you measure them. If you were to get out one of those old city maps where all the roads were thin black lines, you could measure them and you’d come out with 1776 miles of road. A good number for the patriot in all of us, but not the number they use to measure roads.
That number is referred to as centerline miles, and it is only the length of a road. When we build, fix or maintain a road, we are doing a width of road as well. That’s why at neighborhood meetings and town halls, you’ll often hear me and other officials talk about lane miles. Officially, a lane mile is that mile of road in length and 12 feet wide, about 7040 square yards. All told, we have 5668 lane miles of roadway in the city.
Your questions are, of course, about the length of road you drive to work every day, and the square yards of pavement in your neighborhood. When I came into office, we were still recovering from a recession and one of the casualties of that was road maintenance. We are catching up on that neglect, but it is taking time.
Our biggest issue has been cost. Roads are paid for through our local tax money plus the state gas tax. Because cars are much more efficient than when that gas tax rate was established in the 1970s, it’s become harder to pay for road projects as costs have increased since then substantially. The Regional Transportation Authority pays for big, expansive road projects (Houghton Road and East Broadway are the two big ones in Ward 2), but neighborhood streets are not part of that.
Five years ago, we put a bond project on the ballot to help with that, but we couldn’t address every neighborhood. That’s why we sent a sales tax issue, proposition 101, to the voters last year. It includes money for neighborhood streets as well as for arterial projects. It has already paid for two neighborhood projects in the Bear Canyon area.
Those projects are decided by an appointed 11-member Bond Oversight Commission, appointed by my colleagues and I to monitor the progress of the approved projects and to select the residential streets to be resurfaced following the department’s recommendations. The BOC has been tasked to also oversee the progress of Proposition 101 and selected the residential streets that will be resurfaced in this five-year program.
Not every neighborhood with poor streets was selected, that might mean yours isn’t getting done. The estimate I have heard from our transportation department is that we need $605 million, which is far more than we have for streets right now. Still, I’m working on ways to get all of our Ward 2 neighborhoods some sort of treatment, just like I have all of our arterials.
If you have issues in your neighborhood, from potholes or something more extensive, don’t hesitate to call my office or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Requests for repaving projects (not just pot hole repair) are put into a request log for the Bond Oversight Commission and they will review it.
I need to give a shout out to Diana Alarcon, who joined us last November as our Transportation Director. She meets with me regularly and it always becomes a brainstorming session about how to fund projects for some neglected areas in the ward. She’s also been willing to meet with neighbors and talk about transportation needs and what is possible. I am really glad that she’s come on board and I hope she’s with us for a long time.
Speaking of transportation issues, it’s Cyclovia time again.
Cyclovia happens a couple of times a year in Tucson. We close down a street to motorized traffic and open it up to cyclists, skateboarders, pedestrians, scooters…maybe not toboggans though. This is a desert, after all.
This Sunday’s festival will be along 12th Avenue, running between the Julian Wash and Mission Manor Park. Restaurants like BK’s and Café Santa Rosa are along the path, along with food trucks, music and games for the kids.
The weather is cooling off, so it will be a great time to go for a stroll and meet some of our Southside neighbors.
For more information, visit cycloviatucson.org.