Mesa voters overwhelmingly voted to invest in new roads, mostly in southeast Mesa, to help keep up with anticipated growth.
Question One, the only unresolved city issue on last Tuesday’s ballot, was headed toward an easy 124,692-55,389 victory – a margin of 69-31 percent – according to unofficial results.
Mayor John Giles and City Manager Chris Brady billed the bond issue as a deal too good to pass up.
With Mesa voters approving the sale of $100 million in bonds, the city will
get back $62 million in sales tax revenues they already paid through Proposition 400.
The extra $62 million, promised to the city by the Maricopa Association of Governments, allows for a longer list of improvements.
“We couldn’t leave $62 million on the table,’’ Giles said, noting that the city faced a deadline for getting the projects started to qualify for the funding.
“I think people saw that this was essential. Traffic congestion is something that people understand. I think that people appreciate that,” Giles said.
“I’d just like to thank the voters for the confidence they have shown in city government,’’ he said during a City Council study session on Thursday.
Ellsworth Road is a prime example of traffic congestion in southeast Mesa.
“There’s a lot of folks anxious to get on and off Arizona 24 and a lot of developments in that area as well,” Giles said, with the bond issue likely accelerating the development plans.
The bonds will be used to replace sub-standard roads in southeast Mesa and to make vital connections between major arterial roads and Arizona 24, a new freeway that is the driving force behind growth in the previously overlooked area east of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
Giles initially had reservations about asking voters to approve more debt during the pandemic, but eventually agreed with council member Kevin Thompson that a delay in the road projects would be unwise because of heavy growth in the area.
He said the bond-issue represents a long-term investment in the city that eventually will pay off in the future as an auto mall, housing developments and industrial parks fill up vacant desert areas.
At least three projects in the bond issue will create a variety of connections to the new freeway, which will run east from Ray Road to Signal Butte, vastly improving the flow of traffic between Mesa and Queen Creek.
Signal Butte would be four lanes between Williams Field and Pecos Roads, serving as a direct connection to State Route 24.
Another project aimed at reducing highway congestion would be the widening of Williams Field Road to six lanes between Ellsworth and Arizona 24, laying the foundation for new entrance to the airport.
Yet another important East Mesa project would be the widening of Val Vista Drive between U.S. 60 and Pueblo, reducing traffic congestion in a busy area.
Giles said another East Mesa project that likely would have a major impact on residents is the widening of Val Vista Drive between U.S. 60 and Pueblo, reducing traffic congestion in a busy area.
He said Mesa considers all of them a high priority, but it can only issue a certain number of bonds at a time and could not supervise all of the projects at the same time.
“They are shovel ready and ready to go forward,’’ Giles said.
Mike Hutchinson, a former Mesa city manager and now executive vice president of the Phoenix East Valley Partnership, said the bonds will have a major impact on southeast Mesa, Queen Creek and southeast Gilbert.
“Historically in Mesa, bonds have done quite well over many years,’’ Hutchinson said. “The public has generally supported well-designed and well-crafted bond issues.’’
But he acknowledged Mesa voters have not acted as a rubber stamp, either.
They approved a small sales tax increase to fund hiring of police and firefighters in 2018, but rejected the Mesa Plays soccer complex.
In 2016, voters set the stage for a bitter political fight when they rejected a sales tax increase that coupled the public safety spending with an Arizona State University campus. A scaled-down version is now under construction with a different funding source.
In the late 1990s, voters also rejected two parks bond issues that would have created a district park on property that eventually was auctioned off by the city to Blandford Homes for $21 million.