Monday, June 5, 2017

Guest View: Mike Zinkin ~ Traffic Congestion…It's in our Nature

Embedded within the Town Manager's Recommended Budget (TMRB) is a $500,000 authorization to establish a traffic signal in front of the Community Center on LaCanada, halfway between Naranja Drive and Lambert Lane. This signal was originally planned as a HAWK signal (High-Intensity Activated Cross Walk) a traffic control device that is used to allow pedestrians to cross safely, but it somehow morphed into a full-fledged traffic signal in the TMRB.

Is it warranted?
When I asked the Interim Town Manager, Danny Sharp, about the need for this signal, his response was that it was being funded by the RTA, not Oro Valley. On May 4th, I contacted the Town Engineer (Paul Keesler) and requested a copy of the Signal Warrant Analysis. A Signal Warrant Analysis is a common practice followed by many communities throughout the country to justify the need, and therefore the taxpayer funds, for a traffic signal. I received the following response from the Town:

"The decision to place the signal was not based on MUTCD Signal Warrants.* MUTCD Signal Warrants are essentially based on volumes and wait times, better referred to as Levels of Service. This signal is based on safe sight distance alone. The increased amount of traffic raises the chance for an accident. Therefore it’s the decision of the Town Engineer coupled with the RTA, who is funding this project, that safety mitigation of this intersection is needed. And the most cost-effective safety mitigation method available to the taxpayers is the installation of a traffic signal."

I asked the Deputy Director of the RTA, Mr. Jim DeGrood, if they had done an analysis justifying their spending $500,000 of taxpayer money for this signal. He informed me that they had not because the RTA leaves this up to the municipality. In other words, the RTA did not request any justification to spend your tax dollars. I further asked Mr. DeGrood if he believed that there were areas in Pima County or Oro Valley that might have a higher need for this signal. He would not commit to an answer.

Location, location, location

The Town Engineer's report states:

"’s safe to estimate that the Community center is generating an excess of 15,000 exiting movements monthly. That averages to currently 500 trips a day entering and exiting from the singular driveway serving the facility."

One wonders, how many daily trips are exiting Canada Hills Drive at LaCanada? (I suspect much more than 500). How many vehicles are entering the intersection of Moore and LaCanada or Moore and Rancho Vistoso?

The Town Engineer’s report fails to mention how many cars travel north and south on LaCanada daily. However, statistics from the Pima Association of Governments show that in 2013, there were 21,100 average daily trips on LaCanada between Naranja and Lambert (where the Community Center is located). With all the new home construction since then, I’m certain that this number is much higher today. So that’s 21,000+ vehicles that are going to be delayed each day for the purpose of assisting 500 Community Center trips.

Is this really the most needed location for a traffic signal or is this just more of the Town staff acquiescing to whatever the mayor desires rather than having the wherewithal to tell him that there are more worthy places to install a traffic signal. The Mayor is the current Chairman of the RTA. Is Pima County politics entering into this decision?

I have turned to Pima County Supervisor, Ally Miller, for help. Ms. Miller responded that although she is not a member of the RTA, she will have her staff look into the matter.

Another “inconvenience” tax
I will say that the Town’s “reasoning” is consistent. We’re currently asking 43,000 people in Oro Valley to pay an increased sales tax for the 2000 members of the Community Center, and now we will be asking 21,000+ drivers per day to be delayed every time they drive past the Community Center, all for the sake of 500 Community Center trips, and it’s all being paid for with your tax dollars.

*Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is a traffic signals code book published by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Mike Zinkin has a Bachelor’s degree in history and government from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education from California State University, Northridge. He was a commissioned ensign in the United States Navy Reserve in 1969. He worked as an Air Traffic Controller for 30 years. He and his wife moved to Oro Valley after retiring in 1998. Mike served on the Oro Valley Development Review Board from 2005-2009, the Board of Adjustment from 2011-2012, and the Town Council from 2012-2016. During his time on council, he was named as one of 23 Leadership Fellows for the National League of Cities University, he was a member of the National League of Cities Steering Committee for Community and Economic Development, and a member of the Arizona League of Cities Budget and Economic Development Committee.