County pays to move Hughes Access Road

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Pima County voted 4 to 1 to approve $1.7 million to draw up plans to move Hughes Access Road.

The busy road at the South boundary of Raytheon Missile Systems will be moved about a half mile further south of its present location.

The property between the "old" Hughes Access and the "new" Hughes Access will be set aside as a buffer zone for Raytheon.

Tucson has been encroaching on Raytheon for years because the Southeast has become more popular for homeowners and developers.

Because of that, Raytheon has seen its expansion options dwindle.

So much so, three years ago, Raytheon chose Huntsville, Alabama to build its new missiles, bypassing Tucson.

It cost the area a state of the art manufacturing plant and 300 jobs.

Pima County promised not to be embarrassed like that again.

Moving the roadway will give Raytheon a chance to expand if the opportunity arises, as many assume it will.

"It's more important than ever, with sequestration, to actually insure that out largest employer have the ability to expand," said Pima Count Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.

Sequestration is a series of federal budget cuts which will fall largely on the defense department.

Huckelberry feels that could mean defense consolidation and he wants Pima County to be prepared if it does happen.

Moving Hughes Access is a first step in that direction.

"I believe it's an essential component for protecting Raytheon and insuring if it gets expansion opportunities, it can expand," he says.

But the vote was not unanimous.

District 1 Supervisor Ally Miller cast the lone no vote.

"We're moving a road we don't need to move," she told her colleagues. "I just feel that investing this money at this time is not appropriate."

Others on the board pressed her on what might be more appropriate.

District 5 board member Richard Elias asked "what projects she considers to be a higher priority than this."

"Just look at the roads that are in failed or poor condition in Pima County," she shot back.

But even her fellow Republican Party member did not follow suit.

"So, I'm going to vote for this and I appreciate the opportunity to provide assistance to Raytheon," said District 4 Supervisor Ray Carroll.

Raytheon applauds the county's decision.

"It gives us the opportunity to expand, says Raytheon President Taylor Lawrence. "We're really constrained right now."

The county has set aside nearly $9 million in gas tax funds to finish the project once the design phase is completed.

Pima County envisions a tech park and science center between Raytheon and the airport bringing more high tech industry and jobs to the area.

The road way is only the first step towards a ten mile corridor which the county hopes will be the site of new industry and technology.

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