Apr 11, 2013 6:31 PM by Leasa Conze
TUCSON - Pima County estimates it will take $268 million and comprehensive transportation funding reform to bring poor and failing roads up to standard.
The County released its new transportation funding report on Thursday.
County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry outlined several strategies to help manage short-term needs.
Those strategies include $5 million from the general fund in the coming budget year to target key roads needing pavement improvements and maintenance.
Huckelberry also is requesting that the Arizona Legislature return some, if not all, of the state-shared gasoline tax revenues that he says were siphoned away from cities, towns, and counties to balance the state budget.
Huckelberry says transportation funding hasn't kept up with demand for several reasons. For one, the state's gas tax is 19 cents-per-gallon, which he claims is one of the lowest in the nation and which has not been increased since 1991.
Huckelberry also says construction costs have increased 96% over that same time period. Also, he says the same dollar of revenues in 1991 now only buys 51 cents of highway improvements.
Secondly, the report says state-shared transportation revenues from the gas tax in 2012 were $44 million, the lowest of any year since 1999. The report says people aren't filling up like they used to. Drivers are cutting back on trips to save fuel, given the rising cost of gas, and cars nowadays are designed to be much more fuel efficient.
Huckelberry says if the State hadn't swept the shared transportation revenues to balance the budget, Pima County would have had $38 million more for highway maintenance and repair.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors recently invested $20 million into road repair, but Huckelberry says that only took care of 10% of the problem.
The new report cites other states dealing with similar issues and outlines how they're trying to cope. In Virginia, for example, lawmakers are pushing a plan to restructure the gas tax from a flat cents-per-gallon fee to a percentage of sales that would rise over time with inflation. Wyoming is hiking the gas tax substantially, as of July, from 14 cents to 24 cents. Oregon is considering per-mile fees for high-efficiency vehicles.
The new report also includes some quick near-term solutions to boost revenues. One would take the 1 cent gas tax allocation that now goes to clean up underground storage tanks to pavement repair and maintenance. Another would increase the state gas tax from 19 cents-per-gallon to 29 cents-per-gallon. Surrounding states, according to the report, charge 29.7 cents-per-gallon on average. A third short-term solution would be to 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.
If you'd like to read the entire report, click on