County to set aside funds for road improvements

Pima County plans to allocate funds to fix roadways

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s no secret, in Pima County, potholes are as prolific as cactus — they’re e verywhere.

“We can tell you that the majority of our roads — about 70 percent — are in poor condition,” Ana Olivares, transportation director for Pima County, said.

The poor conditions are a result of poor funding, which has lead the county to put a band aid over a large issue.

“We do the pothole repairs and we keep up with that, but it is not the solution,” Olivares said.

In fact, the limited fund make it difficult for road work officials to keep up with those repairs.

"You can go to just about any subdivision in the county and find the worst roads.” Rich Franz-Under, director of network management systems, said. "We’ve been so limited in funding that it’s been hard to keep up with the local roads. One of the things we haven’t been able to do is that maintenance that will extend the life of the roads. So now were at that place where we have a lot of failed roads.”

The solution was recently approved by the Pima County Board of Supervisors. It’s called “PAYGO” or basically a pay-as you-go program.

It transitions from voter-authorized general obligation bond funding of capital improvement projects to a pay-as-you-go program as a part of the general fund. This program will be funded by primary property tax revenues and transferred from the general fund to the capital projects fund, under a unit called the general fund capital improvement fund.

The primary property taxes to be levied annually will include a PAYGO component based on the sum of the following:

  • 60 percent of the Cumulative Decrease in Secondary Property Tax Rate for Debt Service: As the secondary property tax rate for debt service of general obligation bond decreases, 60 percent of the cumulative decrease will be added to the primary property tax levy. This will be calculated by multiplying 60 percent of the cumulative decrease in the tax rate since Fiscal year 2019/20 by the applicable year’s primary property tax base. (Taxable Net Assessed Value of Property) divided by 100.
  • 60 percent of the Increase in the Primary Property Tax Base: As the primary property tax base (Taxable Net Assessed Value of Property) grows, 60 percent of the increase will be added to the primary property tax levy. This will be calculated by multiplying the increase in the primary property tax levy from the prior year by 60 percent.

Both PAYGO levy amounts will be combined to determine the total amount of primary propert taxes to be levied annually for PAYGO and the revenues will be deposited into the general fund capital improvement fund.

But the process of repaving requires a closer look.

Field technician Anikka Bolden has been driving Pima County's roads since October. She works with Infrastructure Management Services (IMS) who was contracted by the county to ride along all 2,000 miles, documenting the conditions along the way.

"We know our roads are in very poor condition but what we really want to know what is the condition of every road in the scientific way.” Franz-Under said. "We decided to start from scratch and uses the van as a tool to get us this very detailed information of every one of the paved roads we have.”

Bolden said it's the biggest job she's ever had to complete.

With four cameras, they take over 100 thousand pictures a day.

“There are two cameras in the back and two up front. We have one in the back that is a left rear, which is capturing everything we pass by and then we have a down view camera facing the road so that’s catch everything also,” Bolden said.

They’re documenting what they see, which is lots of seal cracking and said the southern part of the county takes the cake for rough conditions. Bolden said areas toward the Catalinas did see better conditions, but overall it’s pretty bad.

Live photos taken by cameras installed on the back of a van show road conditions and help crews rate the roadway.
Live photos taken by cameras installed on the back of a van show road conditions and help crews rate the roadway. (Source: KOLD News 13)

“Based on my experience, I would rate the roads, probably a D-minus roughly just based on experience,” Bolden said.

Once their done, the county will know which roads need attention first.

It’s not going to be a quick fix with all the repaving spread out over the course of a decade. In the end, driving down the street wont drive motorists crazy.

“The next 10 years is just a continuation we’re just going to be constantly working on roads to get them where they need to be,” Olivares said.

Right now, Pima County has a pavement condition index of 38 out of 100. By implementing PAYGO, they plan to raise that number to 80 by 2030.

So far, 60 percent of the roads have been mapped and IMS plans to be finished by the end of the year.

You can find a list of current projects for fiscal year 2020 here.

Olivares said they will publish what roads will be fixed on a yearly basis.

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