Staff members of the Arizona Department of Transportation are recommending major projects costing nearly $3.8B for fiscal years 2016-2020. Adding in minor projects, the total recommendations come to $4.8B. This is down over 13% from the current approved 5-yr CIP, which stands at $5.487B.
The State Transportation Board at a Jan. 27 study session heard the proposals from Scott Omer, director of the multimodal planning division. He recommended more than $1.5B in projects in Maricopa County, $378M in Pima County and more than $1.8B in the other 13 counties.
The program is a tentative draft to be presented at a board meeting Feb. 20 and to be discussed in public hearings on March 20 in Tucson, April 17 in Phoenix and May 15 in Chino Valley.
The board is scheduled on June 19 to approve a five-year plan, which must be signed by Gov. Doug Ducey by June 30 so the plan can go into effect July 1, the beginning of fiscal year 2016.
The draft plan allocates 59 percent of the funding to go toward expansion, 12 percent toward modernization, and 29 percent toward preservation.
Emphasis on preservation
The department emphasizes that preservation and maintenance is vital to save money in the long run.
The current value of the state highway system infrastructure is $19.7B, Omer said. “Without a commitment to preservation, the system would cost $200 billion to replace,” he said. “Pay now or pay much more later.”
ADOT spokeswoman Laura Douglas said the department’s focus has had to make a major shift from expansion to preservation because two years ago, revenue was deficient, a loss that resonates still today.
“It was a combination of the economic situation and gas tax and vehicle-license taxes were down,” Douglas said. The department had to cut $350M out of the five-year program covering FY2014 to 2018.
“That meant a shift to where we now focus heavily on preservation of the highway system, and on keeping the quality intact,” she said. “Transportation funding is very limited … and we need to stretch our dollars to meet the great need throughout the state for infrastructure. We simply can’t meet all the needs now; we need a major funding fix in order to do so. … We need a long-term sustainable funding solution.”
L202 South Mountain is the Expansion Project to Watch
“South Mountain (freeway) is the largest project the state has undertaken,” said Kristine Ward, ADOT’s chief financial officer, who also appeared at the board’s study session. “A contractor will be selected after the record of decision from the Federal Highway Administration, expected early this year. Work could get under way in FY 2016.”
Major Maricopa County projects
Other major projects in Maricopa County include a new $7M traffic interchange on U.S. 60/Grand Avenue in El Mirage for FY 2016 and improvements to the Broadway curve on I-10, estimated for the entire five years.
Fiscal year 2016 also includes $83M for Phase II of the I-10 interchange at State Route 303L.
Among major projects recommended for Pima County is a new traffic interchange on I-10 at Ina Road in Tucson for $85M in FY2016 and FY2017.
Elsewhere in the state, ADOT recommends $62M be spent on a widening project in the Verde Valley on State Route 260 near I-17 at the Thousand Trails RV and camping resort in FY2016. The recommendations also call for $15M for widening on State Route 89 from Route 89A to Deep Well Ranch Road the same year.
Another major project, which looms for FY2019, is a $33M bridge replacement on the 29-mile stretch of I-15 that runs through the northwest corner of Arizona.
Traffic, safety, economic development
Omer said decisions on priorities are based on traffic volume and the amount of trucks on a highway as well as safety and economic development issues.
Funding for transportation continues to be relatively flat, Ward noted.
The current five-year total, approved by the State Transportation Board last year for FY 23015 through FY2019, stands at $5.487B, less than the proposed recommendations for the next five-year stretch.
“A lot of the decrease comes from the amount of revenue,” said Douglas, who noted that the earlier cut of $350M slowed down the department’s work.
“Federal funding continues to be challenging overall,” she said. “That goes for all states, not just ADOT, but that’s something we plan for very conservatively as an agency. … There are unknowns when it comes to the Highway Trust Fund, so we as an agency plan very conservatively financially in order to plan for the months and years ahead.”
This could be just the start of budget woes for the public side. As previously reported, the state’s budget deficit has often resulted in the state sweep of HURF funds, dollars specifically allocated to road maintenance and expansion projects at a local level. This may be the start of a rocky year for publicly funded infrastructure in Arizona!
Learn more at Arizona State Transportation Board
ADOT FY2016-2020 Budget Public Hearings
All are at 9 a.m. followed by the regular monthly meeting of the State Transportation Board.
- March 20 in Tucson
Location not confirmed but perhaps in Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, Pima County Administration Building, 130 W. Congress.
- April 17 in Phoenix
ADOT Admin Building Auditorium
206 S. 17th