By Rebekah Morris for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
Recently, the Arizona section of the American Society of Civil Engineers released the statewide report card for infrastructure. Arizona landed a C grade overall, but the D+ on Roads highlights the need for continued investment. Less than half can be maintained with current levels of funding.
Not only are we as a state not funding what we currently have built, but Arizona is not planning for growth and improvement in service levels.
The ASCE presentation likened planning for infrastructure costs to planning for retirement: The longer you wait, the more expensive things become. Every penny we spend in infrastructure now saves costs in the future.
The criteria for judging infrastructure include:
- Capacity – Does Arizona’s infrastructure have adequate capacity to serve the public now and in the future?
- Condition – What is the condition of the existing infrastructure and how will it affect its reliability and safety?
- Operations and Maintenance – Is there adequate funding and planning for proper operations and maintenance now and in the future? Will facilities meet regulatory requirements?
- Funding – Is there adequate funding for capital and capacity improvements as well as operations and maintenance to extend the working life of infrastructure assets?
- Public Safety – Without needed improvements, will public safety be jeopardized? What are the consequences of a failure to maintain the state’s infrastructure?
- Resilience – Is the current infrastructure adequate to protect against natural hazards? Can critical services be recovered quickly in an emergency?
- Innovation – How innovative is the operation, financing, and maintenance of the infrastructure?
D+ in Roads? But Mine are Fine…
For residents of Maricopa County, we’re a bit spoiled with the condition of our roads and highways. Just take a drive through Los Angeles along I-10 heading east back to Phoenix – your teeth start chattering and your car starts making rattling noises you didn’t know were possible. You’re happy to get back to our smooth and quiet highways.
The D+ might seem a bit harsh. However, state residents in rural area (and Tucson) would beg to differ. Some might think D+ is too lenient – the roads outside their homes and businesses are much worse.
Our rural areas are disproportionally represented with current funding mechanisms. Rural counties don’t have the larger tax base and aren’t able to fund coalitions like MAG and PAG.
Over 90% of state maintained roads are considered acceptable by ASCE. This report card takes into account that 41% of major urban highways are congested, costing billions in wasted time and fuel costs.
Also considered by ASCE is that roadway conditions are a significant factor in approximately one-third of traffic fatalities. Highway improvements can reduce fatalities, ease congestion, and grow the economy.
Specific recommendations on raising Arizona’s grade on roads include:
- Direct funds to projects that will most increase performance
- Optimize existing highway capacity
- Use asset management programs
- Invest in projects that will save lives
Growth Happens. Plan for It.
Arizona lacks a long-term funding plan that adequately addresses current and future needs. While our rate of growth slowed considerably throughout the economic downturn, Arizona is still a great place to live and will continue to attract new residents looking for opportunities and a great quality of life. The capacity of the state’s infrastructure must grow as well.
Public Officials Hold the Key
ASCE recommends that public agencies keep working towards sufficient funding of their respective infrastructure assets. They also suggested that every community order a ‘Check-Up’ to understand the deficiencies and areas that need the most immediate attention. Last, ASCE advocates for keeping dedicated funds going to infrastructure: do not spend the maintenance funds elsewhere.
Investment in infrastructure keeps our state economy growing.