ICYMI: Mayor Romero Highlights Importance of Passing American Jobs Plan for Tucson Infrastructure Projects in Arizona Daily Star Op-ed

Yesterday, Mayor Romero penned an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star highlighting the positive impacts that the American Jobs Plan would have on Tucson. Her op-ed came days after seed funding was included in the $547 million INVEST in America Act surface transportation bill that was just approved by a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. The City of Tucson proposals were championed by U.S. Reps Raul Grijalva, Ann Kirkpatrick, and Greg Stanton.

  • 15-mile Bus-Rapid Transit (BRT) service line (see route attached)
  • Construction of a new Drexel Road Bridge over the Santa Cruz River
  • 5th/6th Street “Complete Streets” project from Downtown to Wilmot
  • S Campbell “Complete Streets” project from Benson Hwy to Valencia

The American Jobs Plan could provide the funding necessary to complete each of these projects as well as make important investments in green infrastructure and protecting water security. Specifically, the plan calls for $10B to monitor and remediate PFAS contamination, which recently forced Tucson Water to shut down the TARP treatment facility. The plan also calls for the installation of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations nationwide and provides funds to electrify local transit fleets. In Tucson, the city is getting to operationalize our first 5 electric buses, with another 5 buses on the way. 

If you are interested in interviewing Mayor Romero about any of these topics, she will have media availability throughout this week.

As we turn the corner on the COVID-19 pandemic, planning for our transportation future will play a critical role in the strength of our recovery. Our ability to leverage public infrastructure investment to foster economic growth will be a key component of a successful rebound. Prior to the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. already lagged behind developed countries when it comes to the quality of our infrastructure, ranking 13th despite having the world’s largest economy. Now is the time to think boldly to rebuild America’s infrastructure, catch up to the rest of the world, and kickstart our economy.  

 

Here in Tucson, we are working diligently to maintain existing infrastructure while supporting multi-modal transportation options that serve everyone, regardless of whether you drive, use public transit, walk, bike, or skate. Under my proposal and beginning this year, the city will double the amount of funds we are investing in repairing local, neighborhood streets. My colleagues on the Council and I are also working to make public transit more accessible, having suspended fares at the start of the pandemic and keeping them suspended until the end of this year. In the coming months, we will be exploring long-term options to become one of the only major U.S. cities with free public transit. Finally, we are nearing completion of our city’s mobility masterplan, Move Tucson.  

 

Make no mistake: the level of need is enormous and local resources will only go so far. At the federal level, we have a once-in-a-generation infrastructure package in the form of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan (AJP). The AJP would be transformative for Tucson and communities across the country, rebuilding our nation’s transportation networks, creating millions of good-paying, union and green jobs, prioritizing historically under-invested communities, and re-defining “infrastructure” to encompass basic necessities such as high-speed internet and affordable housing.   

 

Public infrastructure investment is a catalyst for private investment and economic growth. The streetcar is a perfect example of this, spurring over $1 billion in private investments in our urban core. Through the American Jobs Plan, we have the possibility of funding a state-of-the-art, regional Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line, running 15 miles from the Tohono Tadai Transit Center all the way down to the Tucson International Airport. For those unfamiliar with the concept, BRT typically consists of dedicated bus lanes, smart signalization, prioritization at intersections, off-board fare collection, and other design elements that expedite travel time, and give the “feel” of riding a streetcar. The route would run down key north-south corridors, including Oracle Road and South 6th Avenue, supplementing current transit-oriented development planning efforts already underway.  

 

The plan calls for the repair of thousands of bridges nationwide. Here in Tucson, I am advocating for the building of the Drexel Bridge. The Drexel Bridge project would support enhanced economic vitality, divert traffic from some of the most highly congested areas in our city, and reconnect communities long separated by the Santa Cruz River and Interstate 19 with vehicle, biking, and walking access. 

 

Thanks to the efforts of Congressman Grijalva, Congresswoman Kirkpatrick, and Congressman Stanton, seed funding for both of these major projects were included in the $547 million INVEST in America Act surface transportation bill that was just approved by a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives a few days ago. In addition, this legislation includes funding for “Complete Streets” projects for 5th/6th Street from downtown to Wilmot Road, and South Campbell Avenue between Benson Highway and Valencia Road. These projects would provide continuous and fully accessible sidewalks, improve landscaping, reconstruct pavement, and enhance bicycle lanes.   

 

As the third fastest-warming city in the U.S., it is imperative that any infrastructure plan takes significant steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protects our precious water resources. Just a few days ago, Tucson Water announced that they would be shutting down one of our water treatment facilities due to increasing levels of a group of toxic chemicals known as PFAS. Importantly, the AJP includes $10 billion to monitor and remediate PFAS contamination in communities throughout the country. Additionally, the plan includes grants and incentives to install 500,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations nationwide. Locally, we are about to operationalize our first five electric buses, thanks to a federal grant and strong public-private partnership with Tucson Electric Power, who is providing the charging infrastructure. The AJP targets 40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments to disadvantaged communities. 

 

The reality is that none of these projects will happen without major federal investment from the American Jobs Plan. If we go too small, we run the risk of falling even further behind other developed countries. The American Jobs Plan will allow Tucson and communities throughout America to make critical investments that will increase mobility, improve safety, and address the climate crisis, while supporting our city’s goal of shifting how we invest in transportation to create a thriving, inclusive, and sustainable city for all.