ARIZONA REPORTER




Arizona News - 18/02

Tucson Taxpayers Duped By $63 Million Light Rail Grant


Tucson, Ariz. - The City of Tucson has requested and been selected to receive $63 million in TIGER grants to "Help" pay for a $183 million dollar light rail route that will connect downtown Tucson with the University of Arizona. The remainder funded by a previously approved Regional Transportation Authority tax and other federal grants. Yet these funds only cover estimated costs leaving the remainder of the risk, as a clear budget nightmare for Tucson well into 2030.


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As a career constructor outside of running a non-profitable alternative media (not to be mistaken with non-profit) I've had many opportunity to manage many civil and commercial projects of much notoriety even for Tucson. Within those scopes of work I have also had many opportunities to work with planning officials for various zoning confirmations, permitting and related construction risk assessments, yet was most impressed with being able to witness some of the higher echelon of commercial construction lending in southern Arizona. Related to light rail, as a professional in the construction industry for more than twenty-five years, "It will come in over budget, behind schedule and will be further wrought with change orders, lawsuits and maybe even a few resignations”.

Tucson City Council members are well aware of the costs to the City of Phoenix of more than $200 million in estimated operation and maintenance costs alone just to operate their fancy rail system for the next five years, which has more problems than a McCain Senate Reelection. Granted, Phoenix services 28 stops in a twenty-mile initial investment with additional investment being considered but their population can support that type of planned screw-up. $183 for a 3.9 mile rail system in Tucson is completely ludicrous considering taxpayers will pay for it along with the disasters that come about because of it, oh; let's not forget we will pay fares on top of that. Is this the reason Tucsonans keep moving further east into Pima County, to avoid the taxes?

The Phoenix rail system was wrought with safety and design hazards from the beginning as not only; a rush for particular track steel was bungled due to improper manufacturing causing stress cracks, but there were other major disasters that plagued the Phoenix project and are still haunting apparitions in many city offices and threats of liability consistently loom to this day.

Even reduced cost of electric charges from the Tucson power grid will not increase efficiency on top of the strong possibility of a staggering $240 million dollar total project cost by completion date to include further engineering for a bridge to carry said train over an already eroding and unstable Santa Cruz River bed, just reminding you of the additional bridge and soft costs to add up folks.

Commercial business is not booming due to rail spending in Arizona
Are you kidding me? Do I actually need to write another letter to your local media editors of how many small businesses closed and filed bankruptcy because of the construction congestion alone? Hey Tucson, how many Grant Road businesses are facing the same thing this very day?

Despite false or misleading reports to the media, the City of Phoenix has not experienced any commercial viability in the way of increased tax revenue due to waterfront investment project and is definitely not making money on the rail project. I don't know of any Phoenix lender that has written many, if any, commercial construction loans since late 2008. Looking at the failed condo projects, short sales and empty retail spaces gives you a fairly good indication as to the financial state of Phoenix developers in ruin and city officials who ignore it.

Is Rio Nuevo that big sucking ugly black hole that's taking money from Tucson?
Kudos to TW for opening our eyes to the historical side of things (though we always expect to find bones in the desert - my comments not the authors), but John Jones, project director for Rio Nuevo, said it best in a Tucson Weekly Article that, "bottom line is that the voters approved an ‘interpretive' and reconstruction plan" when they gave the nod to Rio Nuevo". So, ‘interpretive' includes a new train set too according to this description. And sir, we did not know there was so much pork belly spending attached to it as ‘interpretive'. Or should it be construed as well that this is only an ‘interpretive' economic depression that your benefiting from?

Rio Nuevo officials also persist on a $300 million incentive to lure a ‘Six Flags Over Tucson' which will be a hot issue in the local run against incumbent Walkup.

My Dad was a great engineer and always told me: "It costs you three times when you screw things up; the first time you screwed it up, having to fix it the second time and the third time where you could have accomplished something else", though his words were not always that kind. This is clearly not the thinking of the elected officials in Tucson, is it Pop's?

Managing nearly 1 billion in construction risk annually for major lenders says that I know commercial spending a bit more than Tucson Council Members and any journalist in Tucson. I personally watched more than 30,000 tradesmen in southern Arizona loose their jobs between January 2008 and May of 2009; myself included.

What's quite obvious is that the Tucson light rail plan has been in the works for many years. Tucson City Council members are: (1) clearly, allowing the excuse of an economic crisis to pay for a new train set that will cost them near 40 million over the next twenty years just to maintain. (2) spent years planning on a light rail system and sought federal funds prior to the economic recession with no success further validated by O'Dell, “In part because the project did not meet US standards for cost-effectiveness)” (3) are procuring federal funds in the form of Reinvestment Act Initiatives in order to procure a non-conclusive additional funding source for the Rio Nuevo project as a whole.

This is nothing new folks its typical politics, ‘Little Washington's', 'Bait & Switch'. The contractors are already hand picked for the job and they are awaiting your final votes as citizens to give them the check while you foot the bill. I'm just calling it how I see it, for the dirty rat that it is.

Please Tucsonan's don't be duped by the green initiatives presented by big media or funding sources wrapped up in lies. The additional funds required to maintain a system that will not generate money is money better well spent getting rid of those stinky buses they currently promote as green transportation, more police, more firefighters, a needed shelter in a city that does not care for its homeless and city managed small business loan guarantee program would be a great start. It may be green on paper but after the money is spent, who cares right?

Recently waiving the aforementioned US standards for cost-effectiveness for the Tucson project? None other than Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood who is expected to announce the funding in Tucson in order to further publicize the current administrations effort to spend more today and have our next generation pay for it. Tucson's project; of 51 light rail projects selected in 41 states, is one of more than 1,400+ applicants to apply for funding as part of a so called $1.5 billion Recovery Act investment for light rail.

Tucson's best investment is increased spending and re-design of the Grant Road East-West corridor which is a vital link for the eastern portion of the city. A potential parkway with off-ramps would service Tucson's increased commercial endeavors and actually expand business outside of downtown. Lawmakers don't want to hear such things for sake of vital support of University officials that support their measures politically as is expected. in return for the great deal of community support the UofA provides to the southern Arizona community as a whole, let alone scientific research to the world.

I know I'm qualified to run for a seat on the planning board; maybe, just maybe... I could screw something else up by being a monkey wrench in the right situation with an end result of saving Tucson taxpayers a cool quarter billion. Or maybe, just maybe... on a simpler fare, I can cause one or more Tucson voters to hear the truth of the matter.

That's my opinion, I hope you have yours.

J. R. ~


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