ONLY ON KOLD: The worst road in Pima County and why you may be paying for it

ONLY ON KOLD: The worst road in Pima County and why you may be paying for it
The five-mile stretch of Ruby Road near Arivaca was once called "the worst maintained" road in Pima County. The county has spent a lot of money to try to fix it. (Source: Tucson News Now)

PIMA COUNTY, AZ ( Tucson News Now) - A Pima County administrator hopes having the Arizona National Guard deployed to the Southern border may increase the chance another agencies will help pay to maintain Ruby Road near Arivaca.

A multi-year battle to get federal help has failed, but now it may be revived according to a memo released by Chuck Huckelberry.

The five-mile stretch of road near the border was once called "the worst maintained" road in Pima County.

Since then, county transportation workers put a thin "skin patch" on the road at a cost of $200,000.

"It's not a repair," said Director Ana Olivares. "It's just to cover the potholes."

But now, after only a few months, the potholes are returning and the road needs more work.

It will cost an estimated $1.2 million to reconstruct the road, money that is not in the county budget.

The county has limited funds for repair work.

Because Ruby Road's traffic volume rarely exceeds 150 vehicles a day, it is near the bottom of the list.

The road had become so bad in the past that neighbors formed the Ruby Road Working Group to complain to the county and try to get the road fixed.

It worked, sort of.

"My experience has been unless we raise hell and we cause trouble and make their lives rough, nothing gets done," said Rexanne Tucker, who has lived on Ruby Road since 1968. "That's sad, that's sad."

Arivaca residents will likely resume their criticism when the road gets bad enough, which could be soon.

"It's already deteriorating and it'll get worse when the monsoons come" said Ken Buchanan, the town's self appointed mayor. "It always does."

The county will then likely use scarce resources to patch the road again. It spends roughly $70,000 to $200,000 a year to patch and maintain the road but because of its low volume use, the road does not qualify for a full repair.

That would take money away from arterials and other failed roads which are also in bad need of repair.

No matter what, somebody's going to be unhappy.

So the county is looking elsewhere for funds, like the Department of Homeland Security, home to the U.S. Border Patrol.

The county and residents believe the Border Patrol is by far the biggest user of the road.

"At least, I'd say, 65 percent of our traffic is Border Patrol," Buchanan said. "Why aren't they paying for it."

Pima County asked the same question of Arizona Senators John McCain, Jeff Flake, and Congresswoman Martha McSally.

The question prompted a months-long study by the Government Accountability Office.

The results of the 27 page study said Border Patrol does not have a policy to help pay to maintain public roads nor does it have the legal ability to do so.

But it also said the Border Patrol could establish a policy which would allow it, in some cases, to pay for maintenance on public roads.

According to the report, that could happen in September. But that's still a big if.

"We have met with them to see if there's some kind of funding we can utilize from their agency," Olivares said. "We have been told that's not possible."

And in a statement, Border Patrol seems to confirm that:

Mr. Foster –
Thank you for your inquiry.
On any public road, damage may occur to the road over time from a variety of causes. Absent specific authority or appropriated funds, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does not have the ability to repair, improve, or reconstruct state, county, or local roads. Border Patrol maintains Government-owned vehicles with the understanding that vehicles driven in remote regions are subject to a certain amount of damage from road conditions and other factors.
Public Information Office
Tucson Sector Border Patrol Agent

And now the residents of Arivaca wait for the monsoon knowing it will once again make Ruby Road near impassable, caught in what seems like a never-ending cycle.

"Let's try and get along here and they're not trying to get along," said Buchanan. "So we are stuck in between government agencies."

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