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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What does PAG do?
  2. What is a Metropolitan Planning Organization?
  3. Is PAG part of the City or County?
  4. How is PAG funded?
  5. What is the Regional Transportation Authority?
  6. How are transportation improvements funded?
  7. Why does it take so long to build roads and other transportation facilities?
  8. Is there a way to synchronize traffic signals better so that high volume corridors get more green signals during peak periods?
  9. Are there major differences in transportation funding for the Phoenix metropolitan region compared with the Tucson metropolitan region?
  10. I travel to other communities and states and noticed that in many places, the roads are in better condition than those in our region. Why is that?
  11. Can regional funds, such as Regional Transportation Authority funds, be used to help maintain roadways? If not, how can we address pavement conditions regionally?
  12. What are the major transportation projects currently under construction or soon to be under construction?
  13. Why do some major transportation construction projects in the same area seem to happen at the same time, causing more traffic problems?
  14. What is Pima County’s current population and growth rate?
  15. How many square miles are in Pima County?
  16. How many miles of roadway are there in Pima County?
  17. Where can I find traffic count information?
  18. Why does the region only have two freeways?
  19. What is Pima County doing to maintain clean air?
  20. Where can I find out what the pollution levels are in the region?
  21. What causes the brown haze I see early in the morning?
  22. What kinds of clean fuels are available in Pima County?
  23. What is the state of our regional funding environment?

What does PAG do?

Pima Association of Governments, a council of governments, is a federally designated metropolitan planning organization to conduct transportation planning. MPOs are established in communities over 50,000 to ensure a comprehensive, cooperative regional transportation planning process and to maintain eligibility for federal funding from the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration. PAG also is the federally designated lead agency for air quality, water quality and solid waste planning for the region. PAG has transportation and sustainable environment planning divisions and a technical services division that supports PAG and member jurisdiction planning efforts through transportation modeling and other services. PAG develops a long-range Regional Mobility and Accessibility Plan (RMAP), a five-year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and other federally required transportation plans. PAG manages a federally required travel demand program to encourage carpooling, vanpooling, transit, bicycling and walking to reduce air pollutants. Through a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy, PAG manages a Clean Cities program to promote the use of alternative fuels and alternatively fueled vehicles to reduce U.S. reliance on petroleum. PAG manages the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) which was established in 2004 and is the fiscal manager of the 20-year RTA plan and half-cent countywide sales tax approved by Pima County voters in 2006.

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What is a Metropolitan Planning Organization?

A metropolitan planning organization (MPO) is established under the Federal Highway Act in an urbanized area of 50,000 or more in population in order to receive federal transportation financial assistance. The MPO coordinates the comprehensive, urban transportation planning process in cooperation with state and local governments. Pima Association of Governments develops federally required plans such as the RMAP in addition to programs and processes such as the TIP and the Congestion Management Plan (CMP).

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Is PAG part of the City or County?

Neither. PAG is a 501(c)4 nonprofit association with members from state, local and tribal governments. The Regional Council is governed by nine individuals, including eight chief elected officials from each of the local and tribal governments and the Governor-appointed Pima County representative serving on the Arizona State Transportation Board. PAG works with member jurisdictions to coordinate planning efforts that cross jurisdictional boundaries. PAG incorporated in 1970, became a 501(c)4 in 1972 and was designated a metropolitan planning organization in 1973.

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How is PAG funded?

PAG receives federal, state and local funding. The bulk of its funding comes from federal agencies for transportation planning. PAG also receives jurisdiction dues from each of its member jurisdictions. For actual funding amounts, see the most recent Overall Work Program

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What is the Regional Transportation Authority?

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) is a governmental entity that is managed by a nine-member board. Members of the board represent state, local and tribal governments. The RTA is managed by Pima Association of Governments. Established in August 2004, the RTA developed a 20-year, $2.1 billion transportation plan approved by Pima County voters on May 16, 2006.

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How are transportation improvements funded?

Four major sources of transportation revenues include federal, state, regional and local funding. Federal funds are made available though the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) to the region for local government projects. The Highway User Revenue Fund monies are distributed to ADOT, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the cities, the counties and regional planning organizations such as PAG. Regional funds include the voter-approved Regional Transportation Authority revenue source. Local sources of funds may include development impact fees, construction sales taxes or a general sales tax. Local jurisdictions also may dedicate general funds to transportation, and/or request exactions from developers to offset the cost of transportation improvements. Projects that use federal, state or regional funds must be included in PAG’s regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). 

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Why does it take so long to build roads and other transportation facilities?

Depending on the complexity of the project, it often takes several years, from the time the process of planning and design begins to the time construction starts. Planning for transportation projects may include traffic studies, alternative route concepts, environmental assessments, preliminary right-of-way studies and public involvement. A detailed design must be developed to address a wide variety of factors such as drainage, utility line needs or impacts, terrain and soil conditions, detailed right-of-way requirements, project material needs and detailed project costs.

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Is there a way to synchronize traffic signals better so that high volume corridors get more green signals during peak periods?

Traffic signals address a wide variety of needs. They must be effective and functional for pedestrians, automobiles, bicyclists, transit, and freight trucks. These competing interests contribute to the disruption of ideal progression for the simple fact that not everyone can have a green light or a walk signal all the time. For one group to have a green light, another must have a red light. Perfect synchronization for one direction of traffic on a street may result in frequent stops and delays for the other direction. Due to the nature of the signal network, varying speeds of traffic, the spacing of traffic signals, the distribution of east/west and north/south traffic and directional traffic signal progression for long stretches, is difficult to achieve. The goal of local traffic engineers is to ensure that all traffic moves as safely, freely and smoothly as possible at all times. To get the most out of the network of signals, traffic engineers continuously gather data, monitor equipment and make adjustments to ensure that all traffic moves safely and efficiently.

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Are there major differences in transportation funding for the Phoenix metropolitan region compared with the Tucson metropolitan region?

Transportation funding is usually distributed in proportion to population. Since the Phoenix region is larger, it receives a larger share of the state and federal transportation dollars that are distributed by population. The Phoenix region is also the only region in the state that currently receives federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Funds (CMAQ) which can be used for a number of transportation activities that mitigate congestion or improve air quality. 

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I travel to other communities and states and noticed that in many places, the roads are in better condition than those in our region. Why is that?

This is partially a function of the lower population and lower urban densities that exist in the intermountain west.  Higher density cities require fewer roadway miles to provide connections between destinations and have a larger population supporting the needed investments in public roadways. 

For example, 2015 data from the US Office of Highway Policy Information reports that large urbanized areas (urban areas with populations of 50,000 or more) like New York and Los Angeles had fewer than 3 roadway miles per 1,000 residents. Phoenix reported 3.3 roadway miles per 1,000 residents.  Tucson, on the other hand, reported more roadway miles per resident than these larger, denser cities (5.0 roadway miles per 1000 residents).Higher roadway miles require increased maintenance costs.

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Can regional funds, such as Regional Transportation Authority funds, be used to help maintain roadways? If not, how can we address pavement conditions regionally?

RTA funds can only be used in ways prescribed by the voter-approved RTA plan.  Currently the 2006 voter-approved plan does not include any pavement preservation or routine maintenance projects. 

State funds that are distributed to individual jurisdictions [through the Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) distribution formula] can be used for such purposes.  In addition, the region also receives an allocation from the State Highway Fund (called PAG HURF 12.6% and PAG HURF 2.6%) that can be used on pavement preservation projects, but cannot be used for routine maintenance, which is managed by local jurisdictions. 

Diversion of funds out of the state HURF distribution formula to other programs can reduce the total amount of state funding available locally for pavement preservation and routine maintenance.  HURF diversions are one reason that it can be difficult for local jurisdictions to sustain maintenance investments in their roadways. 

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What are the major transportation projects currently under construction or soon to be under construction?

For an overview of projects currently underway, see the TransView website (www.transview.org). For a list of projects soon to be under construction, please contact Britton Dornquast, MainStreet Business Assistance Program Manager (bdornquast@mainstreetinfo.org).

For a list of the RTA projects, please visit the RTA website: http://www.rtamobility.com/Projects/tabid/74/Default.aspx

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Why do some major transportation construction projects in the same area seem to happen at the same time, causing more traffic problems?

While the jurisdictions try to coordinate project schedules, it can sometimes be difficult to predict timelines in project phasing.  Delays in right-of-way permits, utility work or bidding of the contract can sometimes cause later phases of the project to slip into time frames that had originally been planned for other nearby projects, causing multiple construction projects to occur in the same area. In addition, there can be challenges in coordinating projects between jurisdictions and with non-jurisdictional project sponsors (such as utility companies). 

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What is Pima County’s current population and growth rate?

The 2016 population was estimated to be 1,013,103. This is 3,732 more than 2015 estimates, or an increase of approximately 0.37%. Population estimates have been produced annually by the Arizona Department of Administration (ADOA) and were usually finalized in December of the estimate year. On August 8, 2016, the Office of Employment and Population Statistics became part of the newly formed Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity; therefore, it is no longer under the ADOA.

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How many square miles are in Pima County?

Pima County is approximately 9,187 square miles.

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How many miles of roadway are there in Pima County?

According to the most recent data, there are approximately 8,174 centerline roadway miles in Pima County. Centerline miles are used to measure the length of roads and highways throughout the United States. Centerline miles represent the total length of a given road from its starting point to its end point. The number and size of the lanes on that road are ignored when calculating its centerline mileage.

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Where can I find traffic count information?

PAG manages and maps our regional transportation data - historical and current roadway segment volume counts and intersection turning movement counts - to identify existing traffic problems and solutions. This data can be found here.  PAG also has recent traffic count data for most major roads in eastern Pima County. Additional traffic count data for roads within Pima County are available from:

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Why does the region only have two freeways?

The idea of building additional freeways in the region has long been considered but has been defeated several times at the ballot box. A cross-town freeway/parkway along the Rillito-Pantano Rivers was defeated in 1984 and plans that included an outer loop freeway system were defeated in 1986 and 1990. Today, the cost to build a cross-town freeway could be as much as $2-$3 billion (though specific costs are hard to estimate and would depend on freeway location, length, property condemnations, interchanges built, environmental and archaeological conflicts, and numerous other project specific challenges).

Opinions over building a cross-town freeway remain deeply divided in the region, making it very difficult to find funding for such a large-scale project. At current funding levels, a freeway project would consume almost all available road funding for the next 30 years, severely limiting other transportation investment options. Making a project like this feasible would require a combination of local, regional, state and federal funds, but no specific funding has been identified at this time for this purpose.PAG’s current long-range transportation plan, known as the 2045 Regional Mobility and Accessibility Plan (RMAP), does include some projects and strategies for improving cross-town travel. In particular, a project to extend Barraza-Aviation to connect with I-10 is currently under study, and some signalized intersections on major corridors are being redesigned to reduce signal phases to support cross-town travel. 

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What is Pima County doing to maintain clean air?

Regional vehicle travel generates about 30 percent of the human-caused air pollution and about 25 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions. About 20.6 million miles are driven on our roadways on an average weekday. Programs are available to reduce tailpipe emissions such as vehicle emissions testing, and the mandatory addition of ethanol to winter gasoline. This winter fuel allows vehicles to burn gasoline more efficiently which reduces tailpipe emissions. Through its Sun Rideshare and Travel Reduction programs, PAG also encourages Tucsonans to drive less to keep the air clean.  

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Where can I find out what the pollution levels are in the region?

Information on current air quality is available on the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality Air Index Now web page found here.

To receive 5-day air quality forecasts for the Tucson area (email or SMS/text message), please visit: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/AZDEQ/subscriber/ .     

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What causes the brown haze I see early in the morning?

This is caused by a temperature inversion, a mass of warm air that moves over cooler, surface air. The warm air forms a lid over the area, trapping the pollution from vehicle emissions, dust and other sources. This results in a visible layer of haze or smog. The combination of our sparse vegetation, which allows the ground to cool off nightly, and the surrounding mountains, can cause the smog to linger until the morning. When the sun warms the air enough, mixing occurs between the cool air and the upper warmer air and the haze dissipates. 

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What kinds of clean fuels are available in Pima County?

Clean fuels available in Pima County include electric, compressed natural gas (CNG), ethanol (E85), biodiesel and propane. Visit PAG's Clean Fuels/Clean Cities Program for more info.   

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What is the state of our regional funding environment?

PAG's 2045 Regional Mobility and Accessibility Plan identifies $32 billion in transportation funding needs over the next 30 years, and $17 billion has been identified to meet that need, leaving $15 billion of unfunded projects on a “Reserve” list. 

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