Davis: Shared use path projects deserve consideration for bond election

The City of Scottsdale is preparing for a bond election, one that will likely be called later this year.

Kyle Davis

Bond elections are a fact of life for many municipalities and Scottsdale is no exception. With our relatively low sales and property taxes, contrasted with our expected high quality of life, it should come as no surprise that bonds are requested from time to time to cover the funding gap.

Councilmembers Klapp, Littlefield, and Phillips form the Capital Improvement Subcommittee charged with developing this bond package.

They have the unenviable task of trimming an original list that includes 145 projects, at a cost of $730.3 million, down to a more manageable number. They have made great progress to date and have narrowed the list of projects under consideration down to 67, at a cost below $440 million.

Some removed projects, and the justification for removal, include:

  1. Multiple storm water projects: these will be funded via a stormwater fee increase; and
  2. Additional community centers in north Scottsdale: a survey of the nearby residents indicated these are not necessarily wanted or needed.

The largest reduction, by far, has been the removal of all of the transportation projects, 39 in total for an estimated cost of $188.7 million.

The logic behind this removal is that the citizens of Scottsdale had already approved a 0.1 percent sales tax increase this past November in order to fund transportation projects included in the Arterial Life Cycle Program.

It would be un-wise to ask the citizens to fund an additional round of purely roadway projects and I cannot fault the councilmembers for their logic.

However, not all transportation projects are directly related to roadway improvements. Several of the removed projects were focused on shared use paths (SUP) and trails, to expand and maintain Scottsdale’s network.

The path through Indian Bend Wash is the most well-known, and used, part of this network but major paths also exist along the Arizona Canal, Cactus Road, Shea Boulevard and Pima Road.

Utilizing these paths and trails, a citizen can ride their bike to nearly every corner of the city while having limited interactions with traffic.

While traditionally funded via the transportation sales tax, I view these projects more in line with a park improvement, or other amenity that directly improves our collective quality of life.

These types of projects encourage the public to not only explore the city, but to get exercise while doing so. I often ride along both the Arizona Canal and Indian Bend Wash paths and am delighted to see people jogging, roller blading, walking their dog, pushing their children in a stroller, or biking.

Scottsdale’s investment in the current network, and plans to expand in the future, are one of many reasons I am proud to call it home.

(Submitted photo)

Included in the list of 39 transportation projects that have been removed from bond consideration are:

  1. Renovating the Indian Bend Wash Path between Thomas Road and Shea Boulevard
  2. Completing a missing section of SUP along Shea Boulevard
  3. Constructing a new SUP along the majority of the CAP Canal within Scottsdale’s border
  4. Improving trail connections into the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Renovating the heavily used, and beloved, Indian Bend Wash path is a deserving project in and of itself that directly benefits citizens. In addition, creating a path along the CAP canal will give the residents of north Scottsdale the same luxury available to those users of the wonderful Arizona canal path in the south.

Furthermore, improving trail connections into the preserve will allow citizens to better utilize one of Scottsdale’s greatest treasures.
Councilmember Littlefield has pushed for increased public input on the bond election, in order to ensure the right projects are included in the final package.

Five meetings will be held regarding the list of proposed projects and comments will be taken online. Public input will be greater than in most previous bond packages considered in Scottsdale and I commend the councilmember for this outreach. However, as a result of the subcommittee’s reductions, none of the SUP projects listed above will be included in the outreach sessions, or further considered for the bond package.

I encourage the Capital Improvement Subcommittee and the City Council to include the above-mentioned SUP and trail projects in the public outreach process and hopefully in the eventual bond package.

If public outreach is going to be a part of the process, I see no harm in expanding the list of projects being pitched to include the ones mentioned above. This will let the citizens’ voice truly be heard.

For reference, the citizens of Mesa approved a bond package this past November with a significant SUP component. They, and other Valley cities, are continuing to expand their SUP system and Scottsdale should as well.

Perhaps I’m in the minority, and they won’t be ranked very highly by the greater populace. However, based on the many happy faces I see using the existing system, I think such path and trail projects will be well received.

Editor’s Note: Kyle Davis is a resident of Scottsdale and a member of the Paths and Trails Subcommittee.

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