By Rebekah Morris for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
Directly following the keynote address of Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Mary Peters, was a high-level discussion involving Dallas Hammit, ADOT Deputy Director of transportation/state engineer; Eric Anderson, Maricopa Association of Governments Transportation Director, and David Martin, President of the Arizona Chapter of Associated General Contractors.
Coordinating on a State and Regional Level
Anderson explained MAG’s structure and how the transportation planning organization operates under law. MAG acts as a regional planning authority, and while they don’t contract for transportation and transit projects, they do act as mediators for regional issues and administer transportation funds through Proposition 400.
Notable projects in the region include I-10 from the Loop 202 San Tan through the Broadway Curve, with a projected $500M investment, and SR 30. Regional freeway investments are projected at $3.2B over the next 10 years. MAG and the member organizations coordinate intensively to ensure major projects are well sequenced, as alternate routes should never be under construction at the same time.
Hammit explained that statewide almost 60 percent of the 5-year CIP is dedicated to maintaining existing assets. While the value of the state highway system is “only” $20.7B, it would take more than $200B to replace the system at its current state. Major projects in the state include investing in US 93 from Carrow to Stephens and a $69M design-build project on SR189 in FY19-20.
Across the panel, a need for more certainty in funding transportation projects was clearly acknowledged. Martin explained that the state gas tax hasn’t budged since 1993, when gas was approximately $1/gallon. If the gas tax, which is a primary source of funds for road maintenance, were to stay on pace with the price of gas as it increased, the state gas tax would sit at 41.58 cents/gallon, not the 18 cents it currently is. If the tax were to keep pace with inflation only, it would be 32 cents/gallon.
Martin also went on to explain the current political climate regarding increasing gas tax for transportation projects. Governor Doug Ducey has declared he will not increase taxes. Most Republican legislators have a similar view and aren’t willing to risk being branded as ‘raising taxes’. On the other hand, Martin presented statistics that indicate not only are elected representatives not voted out of office for supporting legislature increasing gas taxes, the electorate largely approves plans to tax themselves when presented in advance with a clear plan.
The business community is responding and organizing to support legislation that finds a long-term solution for transportation projects.