Like many of you, I drive around our community quite a bit. I, unlike many of you, smile when I see a construction sign. Granted, I don’t like getting stuck in traffic as much as the next guy but I know that a construction sign is a symbol of progress.
Speaking of progress, there are few better examples than what our Regional Transportation Authority has accomplished. Since voters approved the RTA in 2006, $1.2 billion has been spent to expand roadways, increase roadway capacity, add transit amenities such as bus shelters and pullouts and install new traffic signal technologies.
The bottom line is that without the passage of the RTA, the ability for our community to make these necessary roadway, pedestrian, bicycle and transit upgrades would be significantly diminished. Transportation and infrastructure are things that all of us experience and rely upon. People need to get from Point A to Point B. Businesses need products received and delivered. And, regardless of the mode of transportation, our experience needs to be safe and efficient.
It is for these reasons and more that we all need to support the reauthorization of this critical funding source. Even though we technically don’t need to go back to the voters in 2026, the reauthorization discussions have already started. A 35-member Citizens Advisory Committee was established in 2018 and they are tasked with developing the next round of transportation and transit projects.
Citizen and community input and buy-in is what will make or break the reauthorization. I remember when we were working on the initial RTA Plan in 2005 and 2006 many individuals liked to point out the failures of the past. My favorite of the tongue-in-cheek comments were, “Freeway is a four-letter word.” “Why would we place a freeway IN the Pantano Wash?” “That plan is too focused on one jurisdiction!” “We need less buses and more potholes filled.”
The good news in all of the debates and discussions that occurred in the mid-2000s is that many facets of our community came together to put aside some of their agendas and differences of opinion to craft a plan that residents, business owners and transit advocates could support. The voters overwhelmingly approved the RTA in 2006 and, as mentioned earlier, hundreds of projects have been timely and efficiently completed.
To date, over 840 improvement projects have been completed. These projects promised to the voters and promises delivered to ease our mobility include Tangerine Road from I-10 to La Cañada, Speedway from Camino Seco to Houghton, Sahuarita Road from I-19 to Country Club and Grant Road from Oracle to Park Avenue.
Projects that will be completed in the next few years include: expansion of the Grant Road Underpass at I-10, Downtown Links connecting Barraza Aviation Highway to I-10, Broadway Boulevard from Euclid to Country Club (the Sunshine Mile) and, soon to be completed, Broadway from Camino Seco to Houghton.
Our transportation needs don’t simply end in 2026. We still face a multi-billion-dollar shortfall related to the roadway capacity, transit and mobility projects to meet the needs of a region of our size. Take action by voicing your opinions at rtanext.com. The Citizens Committee needs to hear what our region is willing to support as we near reauthorization.
At the very least, try to smile next time you approach a sign reading “Your RTA Dollars at Work.” It can only mean things are about to improve.
Michael Guymon is the vice president of the Tucson Metro Chamber.