Regional Transportation Authority & Wildlife Linkages
While the County was developing the 2004 Open Space bond, local citizens began investigating the feasibility of forming a Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) to address comprehensive transportation funding across the region. The nine-member RTA Board, representing the local, state and tribal governments in the region, met for the first time in September 2004.
During the ten month planning process, information about the effect of transportation activity on wildlife was presented by the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection. The RTA was approved by Pima County voters in 2006. Included in the package was $45 million to protect and enhance wildlife linkages.
After the RTA plan was approved, a Wildlife Linkages Sub-committee was formed and charged with coordinating the disbursement of the $45 million in wildlife linkages funding. Some of the first projects to receive funding include the following:
- The Arizona Game and Fish Department received funding to study the efficacy of specific crossing structures for the species of the Sonoran Desert.
- The Town of Marana received $20,000 in funding to conduct wildlife crossing research on a 3.2 kilometer (2 mile) stretch of road scheduled for lane expansion. The results of this project are supposed to inform the placement and design of wildlife crossing structures during the expansion project, but the project has been delayed indefinitely.
- The Town of Marana received funding to construct additional wildlife crossing structures along a section of new road.
- The Arizona Department of Transportation received $11 million to construct two wildlife crossing structures (one overpass and one underpass) along State Route 77 as part of their project to widen the road from four to six lanes.
Jurisdictions match funds for their projects as required by the RTA and the Wildlife Linkages Sub-committee will continue to evaluate project proposals as they are developed. After the Wildlife Linkages Sub-committee approves projects for funding, the proposals then make their way up a hierarchy of RTA committees, culminating with final approval by the RTA Board, comprised of elected officials from all the local jurisdictions.