Tucson Region Poised to Slash Bike/Ped Funding

Disappointing news from America’s hottest, driest bike city: Regional planners in Tucson are poised to take an axe to an important pot of money for bike and pedestrian improvements, even while they maintain spending on much more expensive road widenings.

Tucson's funds for bike and pedestrian improvements are drying up, some advocates say. Photo: Bicycle Tucson
It doesn’t cost much to make streets safer for walking and biking, but Tucson’s regional transportation agency would rather widen roads. Photo: Bicycle Tucson

Michael McKisson at Network blog Bicycle Tucson reports on how Tucson’s Regional Transportation Authority is dealing with lower-than-expected revenues from a regional sales tax enacted in 2006. Even though active transportation projects are just a drop in the bucket, the RTA has targeted them for steep cuts, McKisson writes:

It’s about to get a lot harder for Tucson-area bicycle and pedestrian planners to find funding for projects after a decision by the Regional Transportation Authority slashed more than $14 million from the RTA’s bicycle and pedestrian budgets.

Pima Association of Governments deputy director Jim Degrood told the RTA’s bicycle and pedestrian subcommittee that revenue from the 2006 voter-approved half-cent sales tax was coming in 17 percent lower than the group expected.

“The economy tanked — as we all know,” Degrood told the committee.  “And that has had a profoundly negative impact on our collection.”

McKisson reports active transportation is the big loser because RTA officials say they are committed to the projects that were outlined before the 2006 vote. Namely, road widening projects:

Bob Cook is a member of the RTA’s Citizen Accountability for Regional Transportation committee and is concerned that the CART committee wasn’t consulted on the decision and that the RTA has decided to slash the categorical funding, which includes most of the alternative transportation projects while committing to fund road widening projects at their full level.

“I think that should be absolutely reversed,” Cook said. “It’s economically ruinous to continue to widen roads.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Wash Cycle reports on a new law proposed in DC that would outlaw sidewalk cycling on roads that have bike lanes. ATL Urbanist notes that while the Atlanta region as a whole may be losing its appeal to young college grads, the central city is a different story. And BeyondDC explains the choice that Norfolk, Virginia, is facing between a good urban light rail alignment and a train running in the middle of a highway.

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