On November 3rd, the voters said ‘no’ to a package of 99 proposed County Bond projects. Some of them were ‘nice to have’s’ and others were key to our long term economic development. The Sonoran Corridor falls into the latter category.
The Sonoran Corridor is the connection of I-10 and I-19, out by Raytheon and the Tucson International Airport. The County Bond was our $30 million match to the full $600 million price tag that our Federal delegation has now included in the Federal Transportation package. The project is more than simply a convenience for the travelling public.
The completion of the Corridor will be the catalyst for several very important economic generators. And it will preserve some of those we already have in place.
The Tucson Airport Authority has a $200 million long term capital investment plan in place. The region can show our support for their efforts at increasing air commerce and tourism by funding the Corridor. Raytheon is one of our major employers. Theirs are not call center jobs, but high paying positions that lift the region economically. Completion of the Corridor assists in creating a buffer that is key to their retention and expansion. The Port of Tucson recently received Federal money to extend their rail line. Getting cargo to their hub will assist them in growing their rail capacity. The UA Tech Park is another economic driver for the region, and again bringing high paying jobs that will benefit from the completion of the Corridor. And the over-the-road commerce we must have with Mexico is enhanced by the completion of the Corridor.
That’s air cargo, tourism, rail commerce, preserving Raytheon, enhancing the work at the Tech Park, and doing our part to capture international trade coming through the Mariposa Port of Entry. The $30 million investment we just rejected would have cost less than a nickel per year on your property taxes. That deserves a fresh look.
The voters said ‘no’ to all 7 Bond questions, valued at over $800 million dollars. The Sonoran Corridor was included in the $200 million road package. Many, including me, thought that if any of the questions was going to pass, roads would be the one. Unfortunately, we were wrong. I believe the long term impact of our turning down the Corridor is too important to not pull it out as a separate item and this time do the educational work we failed to do in round 1. In fairness, the way the Bond package was presented, the voters never had the option to say ‘yes’ to this critical project.
I’ve worked hard over the past 6 years on the revitalization of our downtown core. The progress we’ve made is undeniable. And yet, the jobs we’re creating downtown are largely service sector jobs. The aerospace and defense related manufacturing, logistics and transportation work that will come with the development around the Sonoran Corridor are the types of jobs the region needs in order to more fully recover from the recent recession. We make an immense mistake if we try to over-analyze the reasons for the recent Bond package failure and don’t bring the Corridor back for a reconsideration.
The City and the County, the Airport Authority and Raytheon, the Port-of-Tucson and our international trading partners can all agree on the importance of the project. It’s up to us to make the case to the voters. I believe we can, and that we should at the earliest possible opportunity get this back on the ballot. The upside is too great to ignore.