May 17, 2006 - Pima County motorists can plan on seeing the widening of roads and intersection improvements for the next 20 years after voters approved the $2.1 billion Regional Transportation Authority's plan along with a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for it.

Preliminary election results were announced at about 9 p.m. May 16 to a crowd of more than 125 beaming RTA supporters as they filled La Cocina Restaurant, 201 N. Court Ave. for an election night party.

"I am extremely excited," said Rick Myers, citizens advisory committee chair and Yes!! for Regional Transportation chairman, a group organized to gain voter approval of the plan.

Unofficial results posted by the county Division of Elections on its website show Question 1, the RTA plan was passed with 60 percent voting yes. Question 2, approval of the sales tax increase won with 57.5 percent voting yes.

For more than two years the RTA board, 22-member Technical/Management Committee and the 35-member Citizens Advisory Committee have been meeting, organizing and devising a multi-regional transportation and transit improvement plan. And as officials put it, all their hard work has paid off.

"I heard the fifth time is a charm," said Chuck Huckelberry, county administrator and chairman for the Technical/Management Committee. "Things will begin to happen and those things are very important."

Road construction is slated to begin in 2007 and continue until 2026. The sales tax increase goes into effort by July, according to information provided by the RTA.

In the Northwest and Foothills phase one construction will begin next year and continue until 2011 on Camino de Mañana, widening from two lanes into four lanes from Tangerine Road to Linda Vista. Twin Peaks Road from Silverbell Road to Interstate 10 will also be under construction, with a new bridge over the Santa Cruz River and a four-lane roadway connecting Twin Peaks to I-10.

Magee/Cortaro Farms roads from La Cañada Drive to Thornydale Road will be widened to a four-lane arterial. La Cholla Boulevard between River and Ruthrauff roads will be widened into a six-lane desert parkway and a new bridge will be constructed over the Rillito River.

The final project scheduled to begin during phase one for the Northwest and Foothills is the widening of La Cañada Drive into a four-lane arterial between Calle Concordia to River Road.

"They (motorists) can look forward to significant improvements in the quality of transportation," Myers said. "I think the future is very bright."

Other expected improvements over the duration of the 20-year improvement plan are; the widening of Tangerine Road, a railroad overpass at Ruthrauff Road and I-10, Silverbell Road will be widened from Ina to Grant Road, among others.

"This is the first step," Myers said. "We've accomplished something great for this community."

John Kromko, chair of Enough!, a group opposing the RTA, doesn't see the future through rose-colored glasses, as some of the RTA officials do, he said.

"It's not the end of the world," Kromko said. "But, I think things will be a little worse in Tucson."

Opponents of the RTA plan met at a midtown restaurant to wait for the announcement of the votes, Kromko said the mood was dismal as the results came in. He said the fact that Yes!! had so much more money, almost $1 million donated to support campaign publicity, compared to a little more than $7,000 for Enough! convinced voters into approving the plan.

"They spent 100 times more than we spent," he said. "With so little money it's difficult. We are disappointed."

No matter what opponents of the RTA plan are feeling, the elation was palpable at the RTA's election party.

"It's a good evening," Huckelberry said.

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