December 8, 2022

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Pile of road initiatives awaits Tucson’s new transportation director | Subscriber

Longtime city staffer Sam Credio has been chosen to lead the transportation department, a highly consequential appointment that could determine the fate of Tucson’s largest road work initiatives in recent memory.

Credio has worked for the city since 2012 in roles ranging from engineering manager to deputy director of transportation. Most recently he worked in the city manager’s office, where he helped develop a plan to incentivize the use of electric vehicles.

His new role as director carries a salary of $175,000, as well as a long list of critical projects that Credio will have to tackle in the first few months: hundreds of miles of road still have to be repaved under the Proposition 101 program, for example, and efforts to fix every residential street in Tucson will need to begin if Proposition 411 is passed by voters in May.

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Credio will also be tasked with boosting the department’s road work budget by about 50% — or more than $120 million in extra funding annually — and electrifying Tucson’s bus fleet, an initiative that could cost another $200 million to fully implement.

“Right off the bat, I think we need to recognize that this is a historic time for federal funding, especially as it relates to infrastructure,” Credio said about meeting those massive funding goals, one of his biggest priorities for the coming year. “We as a department are really going to put ourselves into a position to aggressively pursue federal funding.”

The new director singled-out the “Low or No Emission Vehicle Program,” a federal grant that could provide millions for new electric buses, and mentioned two other tranches of federal money that could be used to expand Tucson’s electric vehicle resources over the next year.

The city is also “well positioned” to get a big chunk of cash from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan. Mayor Regina Romero attended the signing of the $1.2 trillion law in Washington D.C. last year, and it’s expected to fund a wide range of local projects that Credio’s department will help implement.

“The bill represents a historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure, supporting a number of potential projects locally, ranging from a state-of-the-art Bus Rapid Transit system and a new Tucson-Phoenix passenger rail line, to building a grid of electric-vehicle charging stations,” Romero said about the federal bill.

Voters to decide Prop. 411

Credio’s other priorities include getting Prop. 411 passed by voters on May 17, something that will make or break Tucson’s overall road work efforts.

The ballot initiative will generate $740 million through a half-cent sales tax, which will go toward repaving roads and installing new safety features like upgraded traffic signals. It’s a crucial funding source and would generate enough cash to fix every local street in Tucson over the next ten years.

Resident taxes also won’t go up if the initiative is passed. It’s an extension of Prop. 101, an earlier initiative approved by voters in 2017, which has already funded hundreds of miles of road repair using the same sales tax.

But about half of the 900 miles of road work promised under Prop. 101 still isn’t completed. Credio will have to oversee those projects as well, and the goal is to get that done by next summer.

“We want to finish strong with the Proposition 101, ‘Tucson Delivers’ program. We’re nearing the finish line there and we’re really excited to get that program wrapped up,” The new transportation director said. “It’s (also) a really exciting time to be the transportation director because with Prop. 411 on the ballot in May, if that’s successful, it’s really going to infuse our department with a lot of money to be able to fix the roads in Tucson.”

Projects face funding gaps

The Prop. 411 sales tax will be collected over the next ten years if it passes, so it will be a long-term focus for Credio in addition to other city projects under the Regional Transportation Authority, a program that uses a similar half-cent sales tax to fund road work across Pima County.

The RTA has generated hundreds-of-millions for Tucson’s projects since 2006 and will expire in four years if it isn’t renewed by voters, another scenario that could throw a wrench in Credio’s ability to fulfill Tucson’s transportation goals.

The city’s current RTA projects are also facing multi-million-dollar funding gaps — including the project on First Avenue, one of the most dangerous streets in Tucson — which Credio will have to work to address within his first few years as director.

“Funding is always the challenge, but I also think there’s also a lot of opportunity there,” said Credio, who added that he’s confident the city can pull “together different pots of money” to address Tucson’s many transportation needs.

City council members all voiced their support for the appointee before unanimously voting to appoint him as director on April 5, saying he is the best person to “juggle” all of the initiatives Tucson is hoping to execute in the near future.

“In the last 12 years, it’s probably the most important time with all of the different balls we’re juggling simultaneously,” Councilman Steve Kozachik said ahead of Credio’s appointment. “I’m glad to have you in the saddle.”

Reporter Sam Kmack covers local government. Contact him at [email protected]