The good news for cyclists is that the Pima County Bond Committee has included four bicycle projects in the upcoming bond election. The bad news, the committee also decided to postpone the election until November 2012.
At their last meeting, the committee voted to add a fourth bicycle project to the pot — an additional $15 million will be funneled toward the City of Tucson’s urban greenways plan.
The plan includes several car-free paths bordering washes, which will cut through the city and connect to other regional bike facilities — including the the Urban Loop. (I’m finishing up a more thorough story about the urban greenways plan. Look for it later this week.)
Julie Parizek, the Tucson Parks and Recreation project manager who is working on the urban greenway system, said funding for the plan is always the biggest challenge. The $15 million will help complete a large chunk of greenway projects, but she said she will keep looking for alternative funding sources in the interim.
In addition to the city’s urban greenway system, the committee has also allotted $2o million to fund the Urban Loop, $1.3 million for the Kory Laos BMX park and between $3.5-5 million for the construction of a velodrome.
At the same meeting, the committee decided to postpone the bond election until 2012 because of the economy.
Nicole Fyffe, executive assistant to the county administrator, said the committee doesn’t want to put the bond up for an election and have it fail.
“It is a little bit frustrating for everybody because we have been working on this since 2006,” Fyffe said. “We keep gearing up and then the election gets postponed and then we keep gearing up. At this point in time it would be too risky to take something before the voters.”
She said they have never had a bond election fail since they began using them in the 70’s, but said other votes on transportation-related items that have failed have scarred the potential success of projects for several years.
According to Fyffe, the committee is stressing that the projects approved for funding so far are only tentative and could ultimately change between now and when the package is presented to the voters.
“Because we are talking 2012 now, the issue is there is so much time that is going pass between then and now,” Fyffe said. “There are going to be changes to projects. There are going to be projects that we don’t even know are needed now and there are some other projects that we are going to be able to find alternative funding sources for.”
Fyffe said the committee is aiming to keep the bond amount between $600-700 million.
“There are going to be some tweaks here and there,” Fyffe said.
How does a bond election work?
1) Projects vetted through public comment, bond committee approval and Pima County Supervisor approval.
2) Bond package placed on ballot for all Pima County residents.
3) Once approved, bonds are sold slowly over 10 years to start funding projects. They are repaid using Pima County property taxes.