Transportation bond heads to Gilbert voters

(Source: Town of Gilbert/Community Impact Newspaper)
(Source: Town of Gilbert/Community Impact Newspaper)

(Source: Town of Gilbert/Community Impact Newspaper)

Image description
(Source: Town of Gilbert/Community Impact Newspaper)
Gilbert voters will receive their fall ballots in the mail shortly after Oct. 6, which will include a question of whether the town should be allowed to issue bonds for streets, transportation and infrastructure projects.

The $515 million bond package is the first such ballot question in 14 years. The funding will go toward nearly 60 capital improvement projects the town and its ad hoc citizens transportation task force have prioritized as Gilbert heads toward build-out in the next decade.

Those include long-anticipated projects, such as the $66.52 million building of the Ocotillo Road Bridge, which will link that uncompleted street from Greenfield to Higley through Gilbert Regional Park, and $48.2 million for the reconstruction of the roads in Val Vista Lakes, one of the town’s older neighborhoods.

“These improvements will be needed to accommodate Gilbert’s growth and development over the next 10 years,” said Vice Mayor Yung Koprowski, whose day job is as a civil engineer specializing in transportation.

If the bond passes, Gilbert’s secondary property tax rate will remain flat at $0.99 per $100 in assessed valuation, although homeowners can expect their property tax bills to rise with their home values.

The ballot question originally was to go to voters in 2020, but council decided to delay it when the effects of the coronavirus were unknown. Now, however, officials said the town is working on the last $15 million of the $174 million 2007 bond, all of it committed to current projects.

Bond aims

The $515 million would fund what is now a list of 57 capital improvement projects. The projects fall in one of five categories: safety and congestion, transportation technology, road reconstruction, redevelopment plan implementation and multimodal investments.

A survey this spring for the town’s transportation master plan showed 67% of respondents said the town should improve roadway conditions. The projects are meant to address that concern as well as traffic congestion, officials said.

Safety and congestion receives the highest allotment at $214 million and includes intersection improvements such as additional turn lanes or traffic signals, Public Works Director Jessica Marlow said. Work with local schools on improving congestion and safety at drop-off and pickup points, at a town cost of $6.08 million, is one example.

Next highest is $106 million for road reconstruction to address growth and the traffic system’s decay, such as in Val Vista Lakes’ public roads.

Another $78 million is earmarked for the Heritage District redevelopment plan, including some roadways and parking specific to the town’s plan, Marlow said.

Transportation technology, receiving $68 million, is meant to build out the town’s fiber-optic network to connect signals as well as bring in more video detection equipment to improve traffic flow.

Assistant Town Engineer Susanna Struble pointed to the SanTan Village mall area as a congested area that could benefit from the technology.

“We’ve got quite a bit of challenges there where widening those intersections is not really an option any longer,” she said. “That technology will help us basically manage that.”

The last piece is $49 million for multimodal investments, such as signals for trail crossings at roads with heavy traffic, which Marlow said should improve safety and encourage more bike and pedestrian use of the trails.

The project list could change over time, Marlow said, but all projects are subject to council approval.

“We have a list—an overflowing list—of identified projects that are in our capital improvement plan that would more than use any proceeds from a bond if the voters approve it,” Assistant Town Manager Leah Hubbard Rhineheimer said. “But we also know that it’s important to our residents that we stay nimble and adapt to their changing needs.”

Costs to residents

Rhineheimer said it was important to put together a bond package that would not increase the town’s secondary property tax rate.

“That’s huge to have a bond initiative of this magnitude and accommodate it within our existing tax rate,” Rhineheimer said.

Even at that, by delaying the election one year, the size of the bond increased from $465 million to $515 million, which Struble said is largely due to the ongoing challenge of cost escalations in the construction market.

Budget Director Kelly Pfost said the town nonetheless will be able to keep the $0.99 rate as debt from older bonds is retired and more growth occurs.

One change from earlier bond questions is that the town held four smaller street bond elections during the 2000s—ranging from $33.82 million in 2001 to $174 million in 2007.

“What we’re trying to do is look at that big picture and make sure that we have the projects timed and coordinated together in the most efficient way,” Pfost said.

A no vote

By early September, as the election’s publicity pamphlet was being prepared, no organized opposition had emerged against the bond to present a statement urging a no vote for the ballot measure, according to the town clerk’s office. However, council members Aimee Yentes and Laurin Hendrix dissented on the June 1 decision to refer the question to voters.

But Yentes’ opposition was not so much to the projects or using bonds to fund them. Instead, she said she preferred the election not be held in an off-cycle year and that the question be parsed out over a few intermittent bond elections for transparency and strategic timing.

However, officials said funding for projects is nearly used up.

“[The measure failing] means our transportation system improvements stop,” Marlow said. “We don’t have the funds to make these improvements. If you look in our [projects] for this fiscal year, there’s maybe one or two projects that are getting started. But we don’t have the funds to make any of these improvements—simple as that.”
By Tom Blodgett

Editor, Gilbert

Raised in Arizona, Tom Blodgett has spent more than 30 years in journalism in Arizona and joined Community Impact Newspaper in July 2018 to launch the Gilbert edition. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, where he served as an instructional professional in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 2005-19 and remains editorial adviser to The State Press, the university's independent student media outlet.


Students and teacher in class
Gilbert campus testing data for AzM2 in 2021

The tables reveal test scores from the 2020-21 AzM2 exam, the state’s standardized test for schools

Test data
Gilbert’s school districts face learning-loss challenge

While school officials said standardized test results from spring 2021 are concerning, they believe they can help students get back on track from the pandemic.

Gilbert Mayor Brigette Peterson is calling for an investigation into whether staff members used town resources to promote personal political agendas or targeted others for their political views. (Screenshot from GilbertLive)
Gilbert mayor calls for staff investigation; Dutch Bros Coffee coming to Chandler and more top Phoenix-area news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Phoenix area.

4 Wheel Parts store interior
4 Wheel Parts set for grand opening in Gilbert on Oct. 23

The store, part of a national chain, carries parts and accessories for off-road vehicles.

Road construction barrels
Loop 202-I-10 interchange to close morning of Oct. 23

The Arizona Department of Transportation plans to close the interchange ramp from the westbound Loop 202-Santan Freeway to westbound I-10-Maricopa Freeway in Chandler from 4 a.m. to noon Oct. 23 for maintenance work.

Arizona health authorities are preparing for COVID-19 vaccines to potentially become available for children ages 5-11. (Courtesy Fotolia)
What to know about COVID-19 vaccinations for kids ages 5-11 in Arizona

Don Herrington, the interim director of Arizona Department of Health Services, sent out a blog Oct. 20 addressing COVID-19 vaccinations for kids ages 5-11.

Brigette Peterson
Gilbert Town Council accepts ethics report findings on mayor

Mayor Brigette Peterson apologized to Gilbert residents and her fellow council members for the moment of poor judgment and said she has been working to grow and learn.

Brigette Peterson
Gilbert mayor calls for investigation into allegations of staff promoting personal political agendas

Gilbert Mayor Brigette Peterson said Oct. 19 she plans to call for an investigation into whether town staff members targeted employees for their political beliefs and used town resources to further their personal political agendas.

Western Powerline Trail
Crews working on water line in Gilbert’s Western Powerline Trail

Contractor crews began work Oct. 18 on a water pipeline in the Powerline Trail on the west side of Gilbert Road off the roadway.

Now open
Two schools of different types that have opened in Gilbert

Here are two different types of schools that have opened in Gilbert recently.

Curves staff members
Two business changes to know in Gilbert

Here are two recent business changes to know in Gilbert.

Road worker shoveling
Traffic shifting to north side on Germann Road in Gilbert project area

Germann Road traffic will be shifted starting Oct. 17 to the road’s north side onto newly placed and temporary asphalt through the intersection at Lindsay Road and to the west on Germann Road.