No fairness on La Canada project - The Explorer: Voices

No fairness on La Canada project

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Posted: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:30 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

La Cañada residents north of Ina Road have been struggling for nine-plus years trying to get Pima County officials to acknowledge and to respond appropriately to their needs.

The citizen committee reports that in nine years, there has not been one recommendation or suggestion accepted and incorporated into the Pima County Department of Transportation plans for the La Cañada Drive North roadway project.

In a November 2002 letter to a resident, Pima County Administrator Huckelberry states "the county is moving away from building noise mitigation walls."

The Community Participation and Mitigation Ordinance (1998: the governing document for the LCDN improvement) states in 10.56.250 Mitigation Measures, A.3 Noise Abatement – "Noise abatement shall be incorporated into the project design to protect inhabited residential or other sensitive land uses from roadway traffic noise" and set the benchmark at 67 dBA.

The original project ran from Lambert Lane to Ina Road (check the bond of 1997). Oro Valley built the northern 1.5 miles of the project (under $12 million), including a portion of the county's road. Just south of Lambert, Oro Valley built county-approved (per the 2001 EAMR for LCDN) noise mitigation walls for residences over 150 feet from the road. Why aren't residents at that distance or less in the remainder of the project getting noise mitigation walls?

Is the county using methods and techniques to deny residents noise mitigation, contrary to the Pima County Ordinance?

The La Cañada Drive South (LCDS) improvement faces even harsher standards. In 2003, PCDOT initiated departmental noise abatement policies that were never reviewed or approved by the County Board of Supervisors or the public.

The April 2008 revision states "sound mitigation shall not exceed $35,000 per benefited sensitive receiver" and "for the purpose of establishing reasonable costs, a barrier construction cost of $25 per square foot shall be used."

Raising the single barrier benefit to $35,000 represents an increase of 16.67 percent, while increasing the reasonable (?) construction cost to $25 per square foot is a 19.05 percent increase. The US economy is in recession and all construction costs, material and labor are significantly reduced, seemingly except for Pima County.

La Cañada residents perceive that the application of a financial test as a determining factor for noise mitigation is discriminatory towards property owners in Pima County who are not protected by another jurisdiction.

The legality of financial testing is in question, since it is not part of any other Pima County governmental roadway management practice. Why is the county applying this test?

Financial testing only applies to Pima County properties; residents are subjected to a discriminatory policy of financial testing using an unsupported estimate of unit costs unrelated to actual construction costs.

Why is the county using a $25 per square foot cost factor and stating (in the Uniform Mitigation Subcommittee (UMS) meeting in May '09 by Rick Ellis), "the County always pays the highest costs." Don't state law mandate that the lowest bids be accepted?

During the 7 July Board of Supervisors' meeting, Supervisor Day inquired about the $25 factor. Both Ms. Cornellio (director of PCDOT) and Mike Bertram (project manager) literally "blew smoke" at the explanation, stating that there were engineering and other costs that have to be included.

Engineering costs are covered in other line items. Subsequent to residents' appeal, the UMS submitted a motion to the CART that only bid prices should be used, not unsubstantiated boilerplate estimates. Oro Valley used $13.68 factor in their portion of the LCDN.

Interesting and definitely curious results can be found in Appendix C & D of the Noise Study for LCDS: 36 barrier sites in the LCDS with one or more receivers defined; only six barrier sites approved after financial testing; 17 barriers denied mitigation because of  "exceeding maximum cost per benefited receiver" employing the $25 per square foot cost estimate; 15 barriers of the 17 would pass the test if the $25 PCDOT factor is reduced to current real bid estimates such as $13.68 unit cost for the Lambert to Calle Concordia.

One barrier for three homes was denied noise mitigation because the cost was $35,092 per benefited receiver, definitely over the $35,000 limit set by the PCDOT.

If the PCDOT and Pima County were interested in good public relations, perhaps they might find some way to overlook the $92 exceeds maximum cost limit in order to promote a more friendly and cooperative atmosphere with county residents. Or strict adherence to the policy, not the ordinance, a means to attain the goal as stated by the Mr. Huckelberry in 2002.

This treatment occurs nowhere else within other governmental entities in Pima County.

In the 15 July 2009 Explorer article about the LCDN, Rick Ellis of the PCDOT says, "We are trying to treat everyone fairly." If fairness and equitable treatment is the goal, the PCDOT has sorely missed the mark.

Written by Steve Hildebrand and others from the La Cañada Magee Neighborhood Association

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