Tucson, Ariz., is getting an infrastructural facelift-and some extra help from the government. The Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department has begun a multifaceted construction plan to completely renovate both Ina and Roger roads while also upgrading and expanding the treatment plants located between them. The work, known as the Plant Interconnect Project and part of the larger Regional Optimization Master Plan (ROMP), will make the county one of the first water entities in Arizona to receive federal funding.

The plant interconnect project includes the installation of five miles of 60- and 72-inch gravity sewer line pipe between Ina Road and Roger Road. The Ina Road Water Reclamation Facility will be upgraded and expanded while the Roger Road treatment plant, which is several decades old, will be replaced with a plant built next to the current one and named the Water Reclamation Campus. This will allow for optimal capacity in wastewater transfer and projected average flows of 36 mgd-and ultimately improve the quality of effluent discharged into the Santa Cruz River. The project is expected to be completed December 2010.

Considering the sewer line project comes with a price tag of nearly $42 million, including construction, design, and land acquisition, it is only a small portion of the total ROMP costs of $720 million.

The solution to the high project cost is a complex blend of tactic, timing, and good fortune. Already aware that Arizona would be receiving a portion for wastewater work, Pima County submitted an application to the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority (WIFA) requesting $10 million the month after Pres. Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). By April 1, the authority had received $2 million from the ARRA in principal forgiveness funds and another $8 million in low-interest loans from WIFA. With resources in hand and plans ready, the project began May 12-a month ahead of their required start date.

Although the federal finances helped, they were not the determining factor in getting the renewal tasks underway. Eric Wieduwilt, deputy director of planning & engineering for Pima County, says bond funding was already on reserve. "We were shovel-ready when the stimulus became available," he says.

The wastewater treatment plant project creates nearly 200 construction-related jobs and another 100 (approximately) in indirect opportunities. Construction must be completed and the treatments plants up and running on Ira Road by 2015 and Roger Road the following year.