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"What if it were your mother?"; Residents fed up with paying for Pima County's pothole problems

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"What if it were your mother?"; Residents fed up with paying for Pima County's pothole problems

CREATED Jan. 31, 2013

Reporter: Maggie Vespa

PIMA COUNTY (KGUN9-TV) - It's probably not the worst road in the history of civilization, but it may be in the top ten.

People forced to use the trail of small craters formally known as West Avra Valley Road are fed up.

They asked 9OYS to find out why the county has left them to languish in pothole hell.

It's a rough, rugged pothole ridden roadway.

When 9OYS reporter Maggie Vespa asked Ryan Connolly to describe the road, he said, "Potholes that touch each other... Patches that touch each other.”

Marana's West Avra Valley Road nearly cost Connolly a steady paycheck.

A monster jolt damaged his door latch, jamming the door shut shortly before he arrived for a job interview.

"I literally drove around the other side of the parking lot climbed out of my truck, got the job, came back, climbed in through the other side of my truck, went home and pulled my door apart and fixed it."

For Brian Healy, the cost was more tangible.

Vespa said, “You've had a lot of bills come out of this daily trip.” 

Healy responded, “Yeah, somewhere around $2,000 basically.  Financially, it's been horrible."

Finally there's Felicia Roybal.

After hitting a particularly powerful pothole last winter, she almost paid the ultimate price.

"I went to correct, and when I did correct that's when the steering pin broke,” she said.  “I rolled my truck, and I broke a rib.”

You might think these three would wise up and take an alternative route.

The problem is this battered excuse for a road is the one and only route Connolly, Healy, Roybal and hundreds of others can take to get to work at Silverbell Mine.

"I've been doing mining for so long, I really don't know anything else, and so I don't have any other options,” said Roybal.  “I can't fly to work."

Fed up and frightened, they took their complaints to the powers that be, Pima County.

The county's helpful solution?  It lowered the speed limit.

"It makes you mad when you're getting ignored,” said Connolly.  “And that's why we called you guys."

So we sat down with County transportation director Priscilla Cornelio.

Vespa said, “These people have paid a significant amount because they have to drive on a road you say the county is not able to maintain.  They say that's just not fair.”

Cornelio responded, "Well I would say almost the same thing.  It's not fair."

And here is where the finger-pointing begins.

"It's not fair that the legislature has been taking our money,” she said.  “It's not fair that I don't have enough money to take care of the roads in the condition that we want.”

Cornelio says that in 2006, cuts to Arizona's Highway User Revenue Funds put the brakes on resurfacing.

By the end of last year, 61% of the county's 1,800+ miles of roadway were in 'poor' or 'failing' condition.

Some money is flowing again but it will take years to catch up, and not every road is a priority.

"We have to look at traffic volumes, are there any safety issues, what's it costing us to take care of it,” said Cornelio.

With only a small group of travelers, roads like West Avra Valley have to wait.

"To fix it is going to cost more than $1.5 million,” she said.

So as things stand now, West Avra Valley Road will continue to be a window-rattling, teeth-jarring nightmare through at least 2015, unless lawmakers cough up more cash.

"When people get criticized, often times they try to point fingers away from themselves,” said State Senator Al Melvin.

Don’t look to him for sympathy.

He says the state is paying enough.

"This is a substantial amount of money year in and year out.  $56 million a year,” he said.

And if the county is pointing the finger at lawmakers like him, Melvin is pointing right back, saying other counties make it work, and Pima will just have to do the same.

"Taking into account state shared revenue and population size of counties, I think Pima County at $56 million a year is getting its fair share,” he said.

But don't try telling that to Roybal.

"I'm somebody's wife and I'm somebody's mother,” she said.  “What if it were your wife or your mother that was coming out here and risking her life coming down this road year after year?  Would you still turn a blind eye and a deaf ear?"

Here's the 9OYS bottom line.

While politicians and appointed officials finger-point, people who pay their taxes and rely on government to do its job are getting hosed.

But we do live in a democracy.

We suggest you let those officials and elected leaders hear from you.  A list of their contacts is provided below.


Pima County Administrator

Chuck Huckelberry

(502) 724-8661


Pima County District Commissioners


District 1

Ally Miller
(520) 724-2738


District 2

Ramon O. Valadez



District 3

Sharon Bronson



District 4

Ray Carroll

(502) 740-8094


District 5

Richard Elias

(502) 740-8126


State Representatives

Representative Adam Kwasman

(520) 561-6372


Representative Steve Smith

(602) 926-5685

State Senator

Senator Al Melvin

(R) District 11

(602) 926-4326