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For nearly forty years, Pinal County has had a half-cent road maintenance fund to help improve streets and roads in the County and its incorporated cities and towns. Sometimes described as “the pothole fund,” this program is also referred to as the County’s Transportation Improvement and Maintenance Program (or TIMP for short). We are pleased to offer a brief history of the program and how our local leaders had a vision that has allowed our community to keep up with growth and invest in critical infrastructure and maintenance.
Today, Pinal County’s population is rapidly growing toward nearly a half million residents, but back in 1985, the population was just under 100,000, according to a Special Census. At the time, Pinal County maintained a little more than 2,000 miles of roadways, with almost 65% of roadways unpaved.
Around this time, Maricopa County began utilizing a road maintenance fund to increase funding for transportation with their passage of Proposition 300. Seeing the enactment of that program, Pinal County decision-makers felt it was time to follow suit – especially since the tax would be paid by both permanent and part-time residents. Understanding that a good roadway network could strengthen the local economy and attract business, regional leaders placed the issue on the ballot for a special election on December 10, 1985, which resulted in the proposition being narrowly defeated by 196 votes.
Fortunately, history does not end there. Recognizing that the growing needs of the community were not going away, our local leaders went back to the drawing board. They focused their efforts on roadway right-of-way acquisition, construction and reconstruction of transportation projects, roadway maintenance, bridges, and payment of principal and interest on transportation bonds.
On September 8, 1986, the Board of Supervisors resolved to hold another election on November 4, 1986, for the purpose of approving countywide transportation road maintenance fund. This proposition was known as PC400, “Pinal County Transportation Road Maintenance Fund,” with a sunrise of January 1987 and a sunset of December 2006. This time, Proposition 400 passed with 51.1% of the vote.
The funds were distributed to pay for local projects in unincorporated Pinal County as well as through a population-based formula between the eight incorporated cities and towns. In 1998, the Town of Queen Creek annexed property in Pinal County and began receiving a portion of the fund. In 2003, the City of Maricopa followed suit upon incorporation.
Due to the recession, the fund fell short of projections with an ultimate 20-year total of $115 million. However, the program was still incredibly successful, with Pinal County accomplishing just under 400 miles of roadway surfacing and increasing the number of road miles to nearly 2,100, with almost half of those miles paved. As the sunset approached, our local leaders started to look ahead to what was next.
A lot has changed since 1986, when the fund first passed. The population of Pinal County had nearly doubled from 98,044 to 192,395 in 2002 – the road maintenance fund had made a significant impact on the community and had helped with the economic and population growth of the region.
In the summer of 2003, increasing sales tax revenues started to fall in line with projections, and the population continued to grow exponentially. Facing the sunset of the road maintenance fund in less than three years, local leaders started a public conversation to consider reauthorization.
Later that fall, in September of 2003, leaders from Pinal County and all of the incorporated cities and towns came together to have their first meetings to discuss the issue. Their vision was to “Gain public support for reauthorization of the Pinal County Transportation Road Maintenance Fund to continue development of an improved, safe, and efficient regional transportation system acceptable to all countywide jurisdictions and in accordance with regional planning efforts.”
In order to achieve this vision, they established three goals: 1) Develop an integrated, efficient, safe, and balanced transportation system for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. 2) Develop a transportation system that is acceptable to all partners and in accordance with adopted regional planning concepts. 3) Attain the level of funding needed to complete the identified transportation projects to serve the region over a 20-year period.
Our local leaders recognized that they could achieve these goals with a continuation of the existing road maintenance fund, replacing the identical one that was set to expire on December 31, 2006. The issue was placed on the ballot as Proposition 400 for the November 8, 2005, election.
The proposal would continue to solely fund essential transportation projects within Pinal County with the added ability to focus on multi-modal transportation systems, including single and multi-use trails, sidewalks, curbs, and pedestrian pathways; Regional transportation studies; as well as cooperative transportation projects and studies between Federal/State governments and Pinal County/incorporated cities and towns.
Pinal County voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 400 with 73.7% of the vote. It remains in place today, with a current expiration date of December 31, 2026. Since 2005, it has been used to fund local projects to pave and fix roads, improve safety, and support economic development, as our community has nearly doubled again in the last 20 years.