Following a year of productive dialogue on proposed governance models for Pima Association of Governments, the region’s federally required metropolitan planning organization, and the state-Legislature established Regional Transportation Authority, the PAG Regional Council voted on key items to maintain the regional partnering approach embedded in the longstanding and successful governance structure of the two bodies.
Under a proposal submitted by Gen. Ted Maxwell, the Regional Council member who represents the Arizona State Transportation Board, the PAG Regional Council agreed to fill vacancies on the RTA’s citizens’ advisory committee with proportional representation of each member agency and also to add one more City of Tucson member to the RTA’s Technical Management Committee. The TMC’s role is to provide technical input on the current 20-year RTA regional transportation plan approved by Pima County voters in 2006 and to provide technical advice on the development of a future RTA plan.
“Regional Council action allows the City of Tucson to have a broader representation on the RTA Technical Management Committee and Citizens Advisory Committee without jeopardizing the regional integrity of the governing bodies of the RTA and PAG,” said Oro Valley Mayor Joe Winfield, the 2022 Chair of the PAG Regional Council. “We appreciate the dialogue we have had on the subject, and we will continue to collaborate to move closer to developing the next plan for the RTA for voter consideration before 2026. The next plan will bring continued regional transportation improvements that benefit our overall economy and the people who live in each of our communities.”
Gen. Maxwell said he believes his proposal addressed the concerns of the city to have more voice without changing the governance structure of PAG or the RTA, which would, at minimum, have required gubernatorial action and created more division among PAG members. In addition to addressing governance concerns, his proposal provided clarity on remaining RTA project issues and increased cooperation among members of the board.
The PAG Regional Council also acted to have the RTA Board set positions for identifying a proposed plan and funding to address funding needs for all remaining RTA projects and to provide guidance on how to address current RTA plan projects that may be moved into the next plan.
One scenario, for example, is that any project currently scheduled for 2024 to 2026 that might move into the next plan would be scheduled during 2024-2026 of RTA Next. Although, the overall funding timeline for a new 20-year plan would shift, the funding years for original plan projects would remain the same.
Currently, the RTA estimates that $78 million to $121 million is needed to address cost increases for eligible expenses, including inflation, on all remaining RTA projects.
The RTA Board had previously ensured members that on an annual basis, any RTA, state or federal funding that becomes available will be made available for eligible project costs to support remaining funding needs.
“This is a critical factor to consider,” said RTA Executive Director Farhad Moghimi, “because RTA funding is limited to the countywide half-cent excise (sales) tax revenues collected annually. State and federal funds which come to our region each year fluctuate as well. However, based on our most recent RTA revenue estimates by the University of Arizona Eller College of Management for RTA Next, we believe the estimates for the next plan period can help meet the $78 million to $121 million funding needs in the plan overlap years along with the possibility of federal matching grants from the new infrastructure legislation.”
In related action, the Regional Council also will consider future direction to RTA committees tasked with the development of the RTA Next plan to ensure the transition of any projects from one plan to the other are clearly defined prior to voter approval.
Once a draft plan is developed, the RTA will expand outreach to solicit public input from across the region and make adjustments as needed. For the 2006 plan public review, the RTA held 27 town halls and conducted more than 200 community presentations to diverse audiences regionwide in one of the largest regional outreach efforts ever conducted and resulting in multiple changes to the draft plan before final approval by Pima County voters. The RTA’s regional transportation initiative was approved by a historic 3-2 margin, the first initiative passed after four local transportation initiatives failed in the prior 20 years.