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Plan Asks Voters to Envision PHX’s Future

Photo credit: The Arizona Republic

By Brenna Goth at The Arizona Republic

The Phoenix of today might be unrecognizable over the next few decades, as a generation yet to be born relies on walking to work, biking downtown, riding trains to school and taking buses across the city.

Current 30-somethings could retire in urban condos while members of Generation Z raise kids — if they have them — in revitalized neighborhoods from south Phoenix to Metrocenter.

Future Phoenix residents might never know the sprawling, suburban, car-driven lifestyle that many current residents live.

This vision is a goal for some and a farce for others as leaders try to plan Phoenix’s road to the future — and the future of its roads. It’s the crux of the debate over Proposition 104, a $31.5B, 35-year transportation proposal going to city voters in August.

Supporters are asking residents to approve a 0.7 percent sales tax lasting until 2050 to help fund the city’s current transit infrastructure as well as expand light rail, add new bus lines and improve streets. They say the tax — 70 cents on a $100 purchase — will leverage other funding and is crucial if Phoenix is to evolve into a top-tier city.

But others disagree with where the money is going in the transportation system — or whether the time is right for a new plan at all. The multibillion-dollar costs are a concern for opponents who see more effective ways to move people through Phoenix and other needs where tax dollars might better be spent.

Some kind of change is inevitable. Phoenix’s population is expected to swell from roughly 1.5 million residents today to nearly 2.2 million in the next 25 years, according to projections by the Maricopa Association of Governments. Maricopa County is projected to reach 6.2 million people.

Now is the time for voters to decide how to prepare for that growth, said Mary Peters, a former U.S. secretary of Transportation who helped develop the new tax plan.

Phoenix’s first transit tax will expire in 2020 if it’s not replaced. The plan approved in 2000 is projected to end with a shortfall of about $1B, leaving the proposal and tax before voters to fulfill some of its same goals.

In August, residents will again have a chance to choose which Phoenix they want to see.

Read more at The Arizona Republic

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