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Members of the PAG/RTA Citizens Advisory Committee work together on an exercise to identify transportation priorities for the region.

New citizens committee to prepare RTA continuation plan

This fall, a new 35-member citizens advisory committee met for a second time to learn about the long-range planning efforts of Pima Association of Governments as it prepares to initiate development of a continuation plan for the Regional Transportation Authority.

The current RTA plan, approved by voters in May 2006, is set to expire in June 2026. The new citizens advisory committee has a three-year term in which to prepare the continuation plan and present a recommendation to the RTA board.

“We set a timeline that encompasses a reasonable planning period and flexibility for the RTA board to determine the best time to request a call for election by the Pima County Board of Supervisors,” said Dr. Satish Hiremath, RTA board chair and mayor of Oro Valley.

The committee is currently set to meet quarterly, or as needed, to develop the plan. The committee will seek technical input from the RTA’s Technical Management Committee, which includes technical experts from the public and private sectors. The citizens advisory committee and other RTA committee meetings are open to the public.

As the development process moves into 2019, public involvement efforts will include continued community presentations and other outreach efforts, such as open houses, once a draft plan is prepared.

The citizens selected for the committee represent different interests in transportation, ranging from roadway capacity to transportation options to economic development that results from transportation infrastructure investments. Members also come from across the region.

Tom McGovern, chair of the committee, said that collaborative efforts by the members will be key to the success of developing an RTA continuation plan that addresses priority transportation needs across the region. “Continuing the RTA half-cent sales tax will provide a reliable funding option for new projects in our region to improve our transportation system.”

Hiremath said the RTA board appreciates the time commitment that members of the citizens advisory committee will need to prepare the continuation plan. “Their collaborative role is an important model of how coming together can make a difference in the long-term economic success of our region,” he said. “During the Great Recession, we all saw how the RTA funding supported hundreds of new projects and jobs and advanced our community when we most needed that level of investment in ourselves.”

 

Ozone levels may trigger federal review

Earlier this summer, monitor readings for the region’s ground-level ozone exceeded the current health standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Pima County Department of Environmental Quality will continue to monitor the ozone levels through the summer ozone season and submit final data to the EPA by next spring.

The region’s ground-level ozone levels hovered near the EPA’s 2008 standards (.075 parts per million) in prior years, but with the current and more protective EPA standards, (0.070 parts per million), PDEQ’s preliminary data show that the ozone concentrations exceeded the standard’s level four times this summer.

“If the EPA would designate our region as a nonattainment area, it will be a very difficult and costly process to bring the region back to attainment status,” said Pima Association of Governments’ Senior Air Quality Planner Sue Cotty. A nonattainment designation would require PAG to prepare a plan to show steps the region can take to curb ground-level ozone.

This potential designation would make it harder for the region to spend federal dollars for needed transportation projects unless improvements in air quality are made. “The plan would need to show that we are making progress in order for us to continue spending federal dollars,” said Paul Casertano, PAG’s Transportation Planning Director.

He said everyone in the community can take measures to help reduce air pollution, which is caused by motor vehicle emissions. Individuals can consider using alternative transportation such as carpooling or riding the bus or combining errands on one trip. Fueling vehicles after dark also reduces ozone- causing chemicals and avoiding the use of fuel-powered yard equipment further helps reduce emissions

PAG has seen a growing, delicate balance between congestion management, safety improvements and air quality requirements, and the current ozone standards emphasize the importance of planning and regional collaboration. 

“Regional planning efforts to improve traffic flow at congested intersections and reduce vehicle idling, such as at drive-throughs and parking areas, help to reduce air pollution as well,” Casertano said. “In the meantime, it is critical that we monitor traffic patterns on our transportation network to identify ways to continuously improve traffic flow and reduce congestion, which will greatly benefit regional air quality.”

For more information, visit PimaCleanAir.com.

 

Pictured above: Recent air quality images captured by the regional visibility cameras of the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality. Current visibility images are here.

 

Regional commute program marks 30 years

“An ordinance…providing for the improvement of regional air quality through the development of plans by major employers to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled by their employees from their homes to their work places.”

- From Pima County Ordinance No. 1988-72, Sec. 17.40.050

In November of 1988, the Pima County Board of Supervisors codified a Travel Reduction Ordinance for our region that changed the way many local employers think about transportation for their personnel. The name of the ordinance is a head-scratcher for those who equate travel with vacation. However, it refers to the sort of travel that manifests as that seven-letter headache we call traffic. In other words, it addresses local motor vehicle travel, which is a major contributor to regional air pollution. In fact, it was the Clean Air Act that formed the backdrop for the ordinance.

The Travel Reduction Ordinance serves as the legal framework for the Travel Reduction Program (TRP) mandated by all jurisdictions in Pima County and administered by Pima Association of Governments (PAG). The ordinance compels local employers with 100 or more full-time-equivalent employees to measurably encourage their workforce to use carpools, vanpools, transit and other alternative modes.* The program, which is funded by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, not only monitors and measures employers’ compliance but also provides support toward it.

Today, there are 216 employers in the TRP. Each is required to appoint an individual from their ranks to serve as the company’s transportation coordinator. Coordinators are responsible for disseminating travel-reduction information to employees, for example bus routes, bus schedules, bicycle routes and information about Sun Rideshare, the marketing arm of the TRP. (Sun Rideshare, among other things, provides an online carpool-matching database and formally recognizes employers who meet established TRP goals.)

Getting dyed-in-the-wool, drive-alone commuters to rethink their travel habits can be an uphill climb. That’s why the TRP also trains the coordinators and provides them with outreach assets such as downloadable fliers, posters, web links, newsletter articles and infographics.

“In order for our transportation system to be successful, both the supply side and the demand side of mobility need to be addressed,” says PAG Transportation Planning Director Paul Casertano. “The TRP and Travel Reduction Ordinance together present a cost-effective regional strategy that encourages alternatives to driving alone, such as carpooling, vanpooling, walking, biking, teleworking and public transit. By educating the public on these transportation options, we hope to influence travel behavior and promote mobility for all Pima County residents.”

All TRP employers also are required to inventory their internal travel reduction activities each year and submit an annual travel survey completed by their employees. PAG uses this data to inform planning decisions for transportation and air quality. Think better transit service, forward-thinking roadway projects, improved access to employment, decreased commute times and a place where people want to live, work and play.

*Employers with fewer than 100 employees can also voluntarily participate in the TRP.

Broadway East status: full steam ahead

The Broadway Boulevard, Camino Seco to Houghton Road, improvement project is ramping up this month. An open house is scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Sept. 12 at Gridley Middle School, 250 S. Harrison Road.

Design for this third-period (FY 2017 to FY 2021) project of the 20-year Regional Transportation Authority plan was advanced and funding accelerated by the RTA Board in 2017. By statute, RTA projects may start anytime within the designated period.

“The project is managed by the City of Tucson and is on time in the RTA schedule,” said Jim DeGrood, deputy director for Pima Association of Governments, which manages the RTA. “In fact, it’s a little bit ahead of the RTA programming of the project since the RTA Board bumped up the design to move more quickly toward improving the deteriorating stretch of road.”

The project will widen the roadway to four lanes and will include drainage improvements, street lighting, landscaped medians and new bike lanes and sidewalks.

 

The sweet success of Tangerine Road

People are discovering the new and improved Tangerine Road from La Cañada Drive to Dove Mountain Boulevard. And they like it. Dove Mountain residents Don and Beverly Amacher are impressed. “We traveled the day of the heavy rains and winds, and we had no standing water and saw how well it was draining. Congratulations and a job well done,” they wrote in an email to Marana Mayor Ed Honea.

The improved section of roadway spans the towns of Marana, Oro Valley and Pima County. The new four-lane desert parkway includes landscaped medians, bike lanes, sidewalks, multi-use paths, turn lanes, wildlife crossings, and drainage improvements.

Marana construction manager Tom Houle says it’s an important project for the region. “It makes connectivity from Twin Peaks Road to Oracle Road, which is a major regional connection.”

Houle describes the project as “the ultimate in partnering,” and a collaborative process from the beginning; working with the design engineers, contractors, utilities and three jurisdictions. Now, the team can see the results. “This is why I do this job; the satisfaction of seeing the public enjoying a beautiful and safe new roadway,” Houle said.

Pima County voters approved the Tangerine Road project in 2006 as part of the 20-year Regional Transportation Authority plan. The section from Dove Mountain Boulevard to I-10 is scheduled to get underway in the fourth quarter of the RTA plan, between July 2022 and June 2026.

Real-time traffic info at your fingertips

Before you set foot out the door to work, visit www.TransView.org for a daily look at traffic information. The latest in traffic incidents is available from emergency services, and updates on active construction projects are posted by jurisdiction members of Pima Association of Governments.

For updates on Regional Transportation Authority activity and projects, follow the Twitter feed (@RTAMobility) available on the TransView site.

Census 2020: Count me in!

A complete census count is important to ensure that our region receives equitable government representation in the U.S. Congress, adequate funding for state and local programs, and better information to support business and job growth. To learn more about Pima Association of Governments’ regional awareness campaign for the 2020 Census and how you can donate or participate, please visit www.PAGregion.com/census.

 

 

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