News Ticker

Every Vote Counts: $100M Tucson Road Bond Appears to Pass by 242 Votes

By Eric Jay Toll for The Arizona Builder’s Exchange

Editor note: When AZBEX went to press on November 8th, the tally for Proposition 409 was trending towards rejection. Several media outlets were reporting that the measure was defeated 48-52, and we made the same error. As more early and absentee ballots were tallied on November 9th, the count narrowed to 49.7-50.3, the nays maintaining a lead of less than 1,000 votes. As of 1:30 p.m. on November 15th, the unofficial final tally says Proposition 409 passed, 50.09%-49.91%.

It could be measured as less than the thickness of road oil on pavement– 242 votes, less than two-tenths of one percent of the votes cast – that is the unofficial final margin of victory for Tucson’s $100M road bond as reported by Pima County Elections at 1:30 p.m. on November 16th.  One of the closest elections in Tucson history, the election-day tally left pundits calling the measure dead. Absentee and early vote ballots made the difference in the margin of victory.

A spokesman for the Pima County elections department said that the results are still “unofficial,” and that a number of provisional ballots are left to count. The department’s website is listing a 100 percent count with the measure passing by a total margin of less than one percent of votes cast. A recount has not been requested.

The morning after the election, Tucson officials were looking at a soundly-measured defeat. Opponents said the bond issue’s failure was a vote of no confidence in the city’s ability to handle money. The financial problems and failures of Rio Nuevo were their poster child. Tucson officials invested many hours into a carefully crafted bond issue specifying what improvements would go to which streets in hopes of overcoming voter concerns.

Ten days after the election, officials finally finished the first count. With 100 percent of precincts in the city reporting, 67,299 yes votes paved the victory over 67,057 no votes. It’s not a resounding vote of confidence—if opponents are right in their interpretation that Tucson voters aren’t happy with the way city officials handle the budget—but it’s enough to generate a lot of work for road contractors over the coming years as the city marches forward.

If the victory holds, Tucson will repave 130 miles of its major roadways and collector streets and 114 miles of its residential streets over the next five years. The projects will get underway during the latter half of 2013. The $100M effort is only a beginning for the city. Studies show that more than half the arterial and collector roads are categorized as failed, poor or fair. More than 86 percent of residential streets fall into that category.

The largest project is the Broadway Blvd. reconstruction, which will take four years to complete starting in Fiscal 2014.

Read project list at YesOn409