Get the facts about how the RTA works

It was 18 years ago, in 2004, when the Legislature authorized a Regional Transportation Authority in Pima County and nearly 16 years ago when voters approved the current program of transportation improvements and funding for them.

The RTA, as a state-and-voter-authorized entity, is bound by a number of policies and promises. Here is a refresher to answer some common questions about how the regional transportation plan and the half-cent excise tax work.

Where do RTA funds come from? In 2006, registered Pima County voters approved a half-cent excise tax to be charged on eligible sales in the RTA taxing district within Pima County. The money is collected from sales to locals and visitors alike, and the state releases the tax revenue to the RTA. Some items, such as groceries, are exempt from all sales taxes. Other taxes are largely paid by visitors, such as the tax on hotel bookings and other lodging.

How was the order of projects determined? Although the RTA plan spans 20 years, the contents and schedule of the plan were ultimately endorsed by all governing bodies of RTA members as submitted by the jurisdictions. This includes the projects in the remaining five years of the plan. This schedule was created based on project readiness as recommended by the jurisdictions, and it was vetted and approved by the public before it went to voters.

How has the economy affected the spending plan? During the Great Recession, revenue was less than anticipated, but project costs also dipped as the cost of materials went down at the same time. Overall, the outlook for the plan shows an estimated $78 million to $121 million is needed to complete the projects remaining in the final five years of the plan. This amount has been established in collaboration with the transportation staff of RTA member jurisdictions.

How is the money distributed among the jurisdictions? The 2006 RTA plan budget reflected proportional funding to RTA member projects. To date, for example, the City of Tucson has received more than 60% of RTA funds while the county has received 20%, and the remaining 20% is divided up among the seven other member jurisdictions.

Want to learn more? Read our latest fact sheet about the RTA plan.