Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Watchdog Report: Another Unjustified Expense in Oro Valley

(This is a follow-up to Mike’s previous article, “Traffic Congestion…It’s in our Nature” published on June 5th.)

STOP…The Madness
Have you noticed the construction going on in front of the Community Center on La Canada? That construction will result in a stop light. That's correct, a stop light on La Canada between Naranja and Lambert. Last spring, I asked the Town Engineer to show me the "Signal Warrant Analysis" to justify the new light. Typically, this report is generated to justify a $500,000 traffic light expenditure, and usually the expenditure is deemed “warranted” due to a safety issue. However, I was advised that a Signal Warrant Analysis was NOT performed for this traffic light.

The Town Engineer advised that there was a visibility problem with turning left out of the Community Center due to the hill on La Canada and that 500 cars per day visiting the Community Center were affected by this. He stated that, “This signal is based on safe sight distance alone.” In his opinion, a signal was justified.

The Community Center gets top priority
I wonder how many cars utilize the "T" intersection at Canada Hills Drive and La Canada, or Moore Road and La Canada? I’m sure that you can name many other intersections in Oro Valley that serve more than 500 cars a day that could use a traffic signal. Yet, the Town continues to cater to Community Center patrons above all else.

RTA spends YOUR tax dollars without requiring justification
A few months ago, Interim Town Manager, Danny Sharp, advised me that the signal was being paid for by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), not Oro Valley. However, the RTA is still funded by YOUR sales tax dollars. I called Jim DeGrood (Deputy Director of the RTA at the time) to ask how they justified spending $500,000 for a traffic signal that had questionable need. He replied that the RTA does not do their own justification, but rather they rely on the municipality. In other words, the RTA did not request any justification to spend YOUR tax dollars.

What happened to the HAWK Signal?
This signal was originally planned to be a HAWK signal (High-Intensity Activated Cross Walk). These are used to allow pedestrians to cross safely (and in this case, to also allow golf carts to safely cross). Now the HAWK has morphed into a full-blown traffic signal. (For comparison, a HAWK signal costs between $80,000-$150,000.)

A waste of money, time, and gasoline
Of note is that prior to the Town purchasing the golf courses, the El Conquistador hosted tournaments for over 260 golfers and somehow there was never a problem for cars to enter and exit the driveway, despite an average of 21,100 daily automobile trips on La Canada between Naranja and Lambert [Pima Association of Governments 2013 Report]. Now suddenly there is a need? Thousands of cars that utilize La Canada in their daily commute will now potentially have an added stop in front of the Community Center entrance. This isn’t just a waste of money. It’s also a waste of your time and gas.


  Editor's Note:  RTA projects are funded by the half-cent sales tax increase approved by Pima County voters in May 2006.  The RTA is managed by the Pima Association of Governments [PAG].  Guess who was elected PAG Chair in January 2017?  Why none other than Mayor Satish Hiremath!  Now let's connect the dots.  The dots indicate that you don't need to justify a $500,000 expenditure (taxpayer money) when you are the PAG Chair.

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.