By CAROLINA MADRID
Cronkite News Service
PHOENIX (Thursday, March 5) _ Reviving a committee to study how best to facilitate transportation between Arizona and Sonora would support business with the state’s No. 1 foreign trade partner, leaders from Yuma County told lawmakers Thursday.
“Without this committee, there’s no one to evaluate how the money (going to border regions) is spent,” said David Randolph, a consultant with the Greater Yuma Port Authority. “We need this oversight so that federal funds are spent strategically.”
David Randolph (left), a consultant with the Greater Yuma Port Authority, Carol Colombo, vice chair of the governor’s CANAMEX Task force, Rep. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma, and Rep. Russell L. Jones, R-Yuma, pose after the House Transportation Committee endorsed a bill that would revive a committee to study transportation issues facing Arizona and Sonora. The four said the committee would benefit the Yuma area. (Cronkite News Service Photo/Carolina Madrid)
HB 2481, which won a unanimous endorsement from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, would reinstate the Joint Legislative Review Committee on Transportation between Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, which was disbanded two years ago.
Randolph said the committee would act as an advisory board to help the Legislature make better decisions when it comes to spending cash on border projects involving transportation and infrastructure.
Rep. Russell Jones, R-Yuma, the bill’s author, said that with stimulus cash flowing in soon it’s crucial to get the committee up and running.
“This money can strategically leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in Arizona, as opposed to other states,” Jones said.
Rep. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma, a primary sponsor of Jones’ bill, said Yuma is becoming more of an inland port with the completion of the Area Service Highway, which opens way to commercial traffic from San Luis to Interstate 8 in Yuma.
“We need to have a viable committee,” Pancrazi said. “With research and studies, they’d determine how things could be improved.”
Under the bill, the committee would make annual recommendations regarding expenditures from the Safety Enforcement and Transportation Infrastructure Fund maintains facilities, roads and highways within 25 miles of the border.
The joint transportation committee was initially established in 1997. It produced two annual reports dated December 1999 and December 2002 and was later disbanded in 2007.
Carol Colombo, vice chair of the Governor’s CANAMEX Task Force and a supporter of the bill, said the transportation committee could potentially open the door to economic growth in Arizona.
“Making informed decisions about such things is only the beginning of long-term benefits,” Colombo said.
Thursday’s approval sends the bill to the House floor by way of the Rules Committee.