By Luci Scott for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
Officials rode in a large-vehicle parade from Margaret T. Hance Park to Civic Space Park on April 9 in downtown Phoenix, a prelude to a pep rally to kick off a movement called Stand Up 4 Transportation that emphasizes the critical need of federal dollars for local transportation projects.
The parade included a front loader, street sweeper and public transit vehicles from Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma, but the one drawing the most attention was the snowplow.
“We have made history this morning,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton told the crowd. “I am the first mayor in the history of Phoenix, while on the job, to ride on a snowplow. That was a fun parade.”
At the same time, the rally had a serious purpose: urging one another to lobby Congress and to talk to others about the benefits of investing in various modes of transportation.
Stanton said Congress must pass MAP-21, the federal transportation-funding bill set to expire May 31. MAP-21 is short for Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.
Proponents say that without the bill, Arizona’s infrastructure will face uncertainty and vital transportation services and projects may be threatened.
“If we don’t invest locally and in partnerships with the feds, we can’t advance our economy,” Stanton said. “It will put many people to work during construction and more after construction. MAP-21 is incredibly important.”
74% of federal funds go to private sector
David Martin, president of the Arizona Chapter of Associated General Contractors, said that 74% of federal funds go into the private sector and that a construction worker’s pay is 4% above that of the average private sector employee.
Martin, and some others, wore a button that said, “244K,” which indicated the amount of construction jobs in Arizona in June 2006. That figure is now 128.8K, and he said, “Let’s get back to 244,000 jobs.”
Dennis Kavanaugh, vice mayor of Mesa and chairman of the Valley Metro Rail Board, mentioned the existing 20-mile light rail system, in which the central Mesa portion will open in a few months and work will begin soon on the Gilbert Road extension.
“This could not happen without federal grants matched by local funds,” he said. “This could not happen without the support of Congressmen.”
He added that 85% of the cost of a bus is federal dollars.
“Ask Congress to act by next month,” he urged the audience. “This is a local, regional, state and national issue. We need to all come together to make a great transportation system.”
‘Transportation and education are investments’
State Sen. Steve Farley of Tucson drew applause from the audience when he said, “When you spend money on transportation and education, they are investments.”
Maricopa County supervisor Steve Gallardo urged the crowd to talk to others, such as neighborhood associations and school districts, about the need for Congress to support transportation. He related an anecdote about his nephew riding the bus with his friends and said that many students depend on buses because their families have one vehicle or none at all.
“Let’s encourage members of Congress to move forward on this,” he said. “Let’s invest in transportation, not only in Phoenix but in Maricopa County and throughout the state.”
Another speaker was Jack Sellers, who holds several titles: member of Chandler City Council, chairman of the MAG Transportation Policy Committee and member of the State Transportation Board.
He said consistent federal funds are needed because federal funds provide repair of roads and bridges, and that transportation connects communities to global markets.
“Transportation is an economic driver,” said Sellers, who added that he hopes, in 10 or 20 years, citizens will be “proud of us for investing in infrastructure.”
Gov. Doug Ducey declared April 9 as Stand Up 4 Transportation Day in Arizona.
Sponsors of the event were American Public Transportation, Arizona Chapter of Associated General Contractors, Arizona Department of Transportation, Arizona Transit Association, City of Phoenix, Dunn Transportation, Friends of Transit, Grid Bike Share, Maricopa Association of Governments, Maricopa County Department of Transportation, Mountain Line of Flagstaff, Sun Tran of Tucson, Valley Metro and Yuma County Area Transit.