Rocky budget road before Tucson's streets get much smoother

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Rocky budget road before Tucson's streets get much smoother

CREATED Feb 29, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - You've probably dodged them on your way to work-- potholes plaguing Old Pueblo streets.
It may be a rough ride for awhile.

Tucson is having to crunch the numbers to find a way to fix this car-crunching problem.

With less tax money coming in, and state lawmakers cutting what the state provides for street work, the city has to figure out how to get more money for streets, or watch them become worse---and even more expensive to fix.

Driving down a Tucson street can really shake you up.

Just ask Daniel Horist: "There's huge potholes.  I had to get my suspension changed because my tires and everything got all disaligned."

Jessica Lesley says of the potholes: "Some times I just hit them and it's really loud."

Jonas Cruz says, "We pay taxes and I don't know where our taxes go.  Where they should be going is improving on the areas that need to be improved on."

Looking at the cracked and crazed streets around 22nd and Kolb, Ward 2 Councilmember Paul Cunningham says, "We need to come up with about 16 million dollars above and beyond what we're doing right now to get our roads somewhere where we need them to be in the next six to seven years."
Cunningham says repair costs will keep going up unless the city can figure out where it can pull money from other departments to support patching and paving.

We had to reach back between six and eight years to find pictures of large scale paving on city streets.  Since then state lawmakers have diverted about thirteen million dollars a year from the gas tax money they send back to Tucson for street repair.
City staff estimates they'll need more than 280 million over the next ten years to bring main roads up to good condition.  It'll cost more than twice that to fix all the small residential streets.

KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Cunningham: "How much of this do you actually have flexibility on and how much is Federal mandates, grants, things of that sort that you can't move around much?" 

Cunningham: "I think realistically, there's a way to come up with five million in the budget, minimum, this fiscal year, fiscal year 2013, 2012-2013 to do preventive road maintenance.  I think there's five million we can come up with above and beyond what we're doing right now.  I'm optimistic, but again, it's gonna take some sacrifice, we'll have to figure that out."

The city could end up considering going for a bond issue to raise money for streets, and try to appeal to lawmakers to restore some of the money they used to help balance the state budget.

Cunningham was talking about the fiscal year in the budget they're still developing for next year.  He's hoping they can figure out a way to shake loose maybe a million before then, perhaps if the city's sales tax income goes up.