Call it a meeting of the minds or perhaps a show of solidarity.
The town councils of Marana and Oro Valley met in a joint study session on Wednesday, Feb. 9, at the Marana Municipal Complex to discuss the shared interests of their communities.
On the agenda were discussion items covering water resources; potential economic- and tourism-development partnerships; and the burgeoning transportation artery of Tangerine Road.
An extensive roadway improvement program is planned for the section of Tangerine from the interstate to La Cañada Drive in Oro Valley.
“That has so much potential for both our communities,” Marana Mayor Ed Honea said about the Tangerine corridor. “This really is a tremendous opportunity.”
Honea said the corridor, a 16-mile stretch from Interstate 10 to Oracle Road, could someday be lined with retail, residential and other sorts of development. Growth along the corridor would bring in much-needed sales tax and development impact fee revenue for the towns, both of which depend greatly on such funding in lieu of levying property taxes.
Part of the 2006 voter-approved Regional Transportation Authority, the improvement plan includes widening the road to four lanes and adding bicycle lanes, turn lanes and improved drainage.
The project’s timeline projects its starting date out as far as 2016 and stretching to the end of the taxing authority in 2026. Both towns have indicated they would like to push up the timeframe to get the project underway sooner.
“We’re feeling we can’t wait this long to get this project done,” Oro Valley Town Engineer Craig Civalier said.
An RTA spokesman said the authority is always amenable to working with the jurisdictions, but added that most towns want to have project start times moved up. The RTA also is limited by the amount of tax revenue in its coffers at a given time.
Voters approved committing $45.3 million for the project, collected from a countywide sales tax dedicated to RTA projects, while the local governments were anticipated to contribute $28.9 million to the project.
Original estimates for the project in 2006 were $74.2 million. Current estimates, however, put the price tag at somewhere closer to $93 million, according to Civalier.
That leaves an additional $18.8 million local governments would be responsible for, bringing local contributions to $47.7 million. RTA contributions to the project are limited to the figures voters approved in the plan.
RTA officials said they are unsure where the $93 million estimate came from because the project remains in the early planning stages.
In addition to a potential financial stumbling block, both communities see Pima County as a potential issue with which to contend.
A stretch of Tangerine Road less than a half-mile long runs through the county between Oro Valley and Marana. Pima County would have the final say over the design elements in that section and would have discretion over its financial obligation.
The three jurisdictions would share the local costs of the project. Marana has the largest obligation at $21.4 million. Oro Valley would pay $1 million and Pima County $6.5 million. All the funds would come from development impact fees, dwindling funds these days with the near standstill in construction activity.
Honea indicated he would be amenable to taking the county out of the equation, at least from a design standpoint, by annexing the area.
“I think eventually that county piece will end up in one of our communities,” he said. “If Oro Valley is interested, we would be supportive.”
Oro Valley already has made a play for the area and a 562-acre section of State Trust land south of Tangerine. Town officials have begun preliminary talks with the state about annexation.
Marana Public Works Director Barbara Johnson told council members that a project between two jurisdictions, Marana and Oro Valley, would be more manageable than a project involving three entities.
If the area were annexed prior to the completion of the Tangerine project, the funding obligations could change, with the county likely not obligated to contribute the $6.5 million in impact fees.
In addition, the identified funding source of impact fees has greatly declined in recent years with the drop in construction activity.
The county anticipates collecting less than $3 million in impact fees for the current budget year as opposed to more than $10 million in 2007, according to a Feb. 9 memo County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry sent to the board of supervisors.