Tucson - Complaints about Pima County roads never end.
Wendy Dewey lives in the Foothills and says, “Anywhere you drive, the roads are shot.”
Her neighbor, Doug Hughes, told us, “I'd say "frustrated" is the key word.”
The Pima County Department of Transportation says 60% of county-maintained roads are in failed or poor condition. And the county's highest-ranking employee knows it.
We met with County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and asked, “Doesn't the buck stop with you as far as the bad roads?” He replied, “ Of course it does. But the problem is, is you can't fix bad roads with nothing.”
More with Huckelberry later. Now, here's the question county taxpayers have been asking for years.
“Why have the highest property taxes of any county in the state, and some of the worst roads of any county in the state?
That from Doug Hughes, who lives in The Foothills Clusters, a neighborhood of nearly 400 homes. Its two main roads, Evans Mountain Drive and E. Ventana Canyon Drive, are county-maintained and in poor condition. More than 300 residents recently signed a petition and sent it to their supervisor, Ally Miller, asking the county to repave those roads. Their request was shot down.
Huckelberry wrote in a memo to Miller that the repaving would cost $361,600, money the county administration says it doesn't have for this. Huckelberry also wrote: "These roadways could have been improved using future bond funding from the now-defeated November 2015 election." Residents were not happy to read that. They say their taxes are already too high, which is a big reason why they rejected the bond issue.
Supervisor Miller told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, “Well here's the problem: we always seem to be able to find money for everything else except for repairing our roads.”
The county's transportation department receives $55 million a year from the state in revenues from taxes on gas and vehicle licenses. Huckelberry says that money goes to operate, maintain and build the entire transportation system. He says fixing every bad road would cost $300 million. Miller believes the county spends too much on transportation department salaries and overhead.
Miller said, “As long as we do not spend the money directly on road repair, we are not going to see a solution to this problem.”
Huckelberry responded to Miller's comments in an email, saying: "Shows she knows nothing about the organization. The employees support the construction of new roads, design and engineer road improvements...."
Huckelberry supports a half-cent sales tax over 10 years, and says, “That fixes every one of our roads in 10 years. And it basically, probably, fixes every one of the city's roads in 10 years.”
Pima County ranks 11th out of Arizona's 15 counties in the state legislature's per capita distribution of Highway User Revenue Funds (known as HURF). Huckelberry says until the state legislature gives the county more money to fix its roads, without a half-cent sales tax, significant improvements are not in the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, residents such as Wendy Dewey keep asking: “When is this ever going to happen? When will the roads ever be done, if there's no plan?
Residents in The Foothills Clusters say they don't want any special treatment, that they're just a microcosm of what's going on throughout the county. Though they're not getting their two main roads repaved, Transportation Director Priscilla Cornelio did send them a letter saying the county will continue to patch potholes and do pavement-edge repairs, when needed.
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