B y L i n d a N e e f e
A NOT-SO-new grass-roots coalition of community organizations, with its sight set on transportation issues, is quietly gaining momentum in Tucson.
The two-year-old Tucson Regional Transportation Coalition represents the union of an unlikely bunch of organizations that have agreed to set aside their differences and work for a common goal: the funding and building of local transportation projects.
Joe Herrick, co-chairman of the group and a representative of the Tucson Utility Contractors Association, came up with the idea of uniting Tucson's numerous and diverse organizations--contractors, neighborhood groups, transportation professionals and environmentalists--in an effort to develop a financial strategy to fund community transportation needs.
"We've been plodding along now for almost two years," Herrick says, "building a nice solid foundation of support."
All that plodding produced an interesting conglomeration.
The Coalition has garnered the support of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the American Subcontractors Association of Tucson, the Tucson Economic Prosperity Alliance, the Arizona Rail Passenger Association, the Tucson Electric Vehicle Association, the League of Women Voters of Greater Tucson, the Sierra Club, the Neighborhood Coalition of Greater Tucson, the Tucson Utility Contractors Association and both the Black and Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Representatives of the Pima Association of Governments, Old Pueblo Trolley and several bicycle groups and highway users associations also sit in on Coalition steering committee meetings.
The Coalition's mission is threefold:
To generate support for better transportation by providing a forum for the exchange of information and views,
To identify transportation needs and solutions that have broad community support, then work for their implementation.
To support increased funding for transportation in light of continued growth of travel in the region and the increasing gap between dollars needed and dollars available.
Coalition members believe that citizen input is essential to realizing improvements in community transportation. They hope to rally public support for the cause through outreach meetings to be held throughout the summer.
The Coalition is not backing any particular transportation project at this point, but rather is trying to gather citizens' thoughts on possible funding options, including a half-cent sales tax, an increase in state motor fuel taxes, the use of state motor vehicle registration fees for transit improvements and indexing to inflation the Highway User Revenue Fund and Local Transportation Assistance Fund. But whatever the funding source turns out to be, the group is adamant about how the money should be spent:
"What we're saying is, 'If you collect a fuel tax, it comes right back here to the county to be used for transportation,'" Herrick says.
Plans are also in the works for a late summer transportation seminar to advise city and county lobbyists and state legislators of the coalition's position.
Expanding the membership is also a coalition priority at this point. Membership is open to any group sharing a concern for the future of transportation in the Tucson region.
"We're all volunteers here," Herrick says. "(We're) just trying to come up with a solution to get these (transportation) projects done."
The coalition's position statement proclaims: "Because of the essential nature of transportation to all our citizens, whether rich or poor or urban or rural, the provision of transportation improvements and services requires a partnership of individuals, businesses and government working together for the benefit of everyone."
What a concept.
For additional TRTC information contact Joe Herrick at 748-8776.
Cutline: Tucson Regional Transportation Co-Chairman Joe Herrick: "We're just trying to come up with a solution to get these projects done." Photo by Sean Justice.
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