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  • How should we fund Pima County’s road maintenance?

    Aug 11, 2014 | Read More News
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    Pima County has inadequate revenue from gas taxes and transportation fees to pay for annual pavement preservation and to overcome the current maintenance deficit of 1,400 miles of unincorporated county roads rated as fair, poor or failed. The roads can’t fix themselves and the county doesn’t have a magic wand. It requires money. The county can continue to wait for the state to provide adequate transportation funding while the roads get worse and the problem gets bigger and more expensive, or it can take matters into its own hands.

    [Click here to download a pdf version of this report]

    Reasons for the Inadequate Revenue

    Arizona has not raised its gas tax in 23 years despite Arizona’s population increasing by 81 percent and the number of vehicle miles travelled in Arizona roads increasing 71 percent over that time. The current gas tax has a purchasing power that is half what it was in 1991, meaning it takes twice as much money in 2014 to purchase what could be purchased in 1990.

    The state gas tax, irrespective of its lack of increase, is proving an ineffective funding source as vehicle gas mileage drastically improves. Today’s drivers are buying less and less gas for the same amount of miles driven. While the wear and tear caused by those miles remains constant, the revenue derived from the fuel purchases for those miles is steadily diminishing.

    In 1997, County voters approved borrowing $350 million against future gas tax and transportation fee revenues to pay for 57 road improvement projects in the county. The county sold the bonds in $50 million to $60 million increments every few years as the projects were phased in over the course of 20 years. More than 80 percent have been completed and, of the remainder, most are under way and will be completed in the next few years. The debt payments will continue through at least 2030 but will substantially decrease from about $15 million a year to $5 million a year or less in 2024.


    Until the county pays off enough of the 1997 debt, the county does not have enough transportation funding to pay for annual roads maintenance and/also overcome the $264 million maintenance deficit. More transportation funding in addition to state gas tax and transportation fees is necessary.

    Funding solutions out of the County’s control:

    Most of the best options for adding additional transportation funding are out of the county’s control. Almost all of them involve action by the state Legislature, such as an increase in the gas tax or authority for counties and municipalities to levy their own gas taxes. Chances of the Legislature providing more roads funding in the next two years are negligible. Other solutions involve both legislative action and action by voters, such as authority to reapportion Regional Transportation Authority sales tax revenue for road maintenance. Both are unlikely.

    Additional Funding in the County’s Control:

    • Impose a Countywide transportation property tax
    Requires only a majority vote of the board. Because it would be imposed countywide, fairness would call for two-thirds of the money raised be given to the municipalities, leaving too little money left over to pay for annual roads maintenance and fix the $264 million deficit.

    • Impose a Countywide transportation half-cent sales tax
    Requires unanimous vote of the board. Would be imposed countywide. Such a tax is estimated to generate about $60 million annually. Fairness could possibly be achieved by half used to pay for unincorporated county road maintenance and repair, and the other half used to offset a decrease in the county primary property tax. Or the other half could be distributed to the municipalities.

    Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, with the assistance of county Public Works, Transportation and Budget officials, has prepared a report that explains in greater detail the road-maintenance funding problems and possible solutions. You can read the report by clicking on this link.


    What do you think the county should do? If the state’s not going to help us solve our road funding troubles, then we have to do it ourselves. We want to hear from the public so that we can make the best possible decision with the broadest possible support.

    You can contact any of these County Administrators

    County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry,
    Deputy County Administrator (Public Works) John Bernal,
    County Transportation Department Director Priscilla Cornelio,

    Or you can contact any of the County Supervisors

    District 1: Ally Miller, (520) 724-2738,
    District 2: Ramón Valadez, (520) 724-8126,
    District 3: Sharon Bronson (Board Chair), (520) 724-8051,
    District 4: Ray Carroll, (520) 724-8094,
    District 5: Richard Elías, (520) 724-8126,