By Rebekah Morris for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
Don’t hit the panic button yet: most of the drop in the Arizona Department of Transportation’s State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) budget is due to a change in reporting. Accounting for that change, overall funding continues to decline in total allocation.
For the five years AZBEX has been tracking the STIP, we have seen a steady decline in total funding. In years 2013, 2014 and 2015, we saw declines of about $100M-$150M. Last year the decline slowed quite a bit to only $20M. We were hopeful that this year we’d see an overall increase in the five-year total. Alas, that was not meant to be.
Rather, the data shows a $900M hit, or a 17% reduction in the program total.
Most of this ($825M) is due to a reporting change in airport projects. What used to comprise over $1B of a $5B program now shows only $118M, a drop of almost 90 percent. That alone covers almost $825M of the $900M drop.
When asked about this change, ADOT explained that the STIP is separating them out to show state funds only. When the State Transportation Board approves the STIP, they only intend to approve the distribution of state funds, not FAA monies, which make up the bulk of airport improvement projects’ funding. This clearly demonstrates our dependence on federal funding to maintain our infrastructure investment.
Despite Positive Moves, Totals Decline
In recent months, transportation funding has made great headlines: the Feds passed a long-term transportation bill (FAST Act) in December 2015, giving stability and predictability to states who rely on federal monies to support their transportation program (AZ relies heavily on federal funding for transportation).
According to ADOT spokeswoman Laura Douglas, this should result in $300M of additional funding over the next five years. Those funds are included in the STIP. The state has also been successful in landing TIGER grants in recent years.
Most recently, the state was awarded $15M for SR 347 overpass in Maricopa, as well as $10.3M for the Grand Canalscape project in Phoenix (AZBEX, Oct 30, 2015). Last month, ADOT announced they were pursuing TIGER grants for several projects in this coming round of competitive awards (AZBEX, May 3, 2016).
Additionally, the statewide highway program shows a big increase – almost $458M added to projects throughout the state. These are outside of MAG and PAG projects. Unfortunately, this is completely offset by a corresponding $466M decrease in funding for RTP projects in Maricopa County.
State Budget Helps, Hurts
This seems to be a case of good news/bad news. On the bright side, the state has allocated $30M to local governments, as well as a $55M allocation to ADOT to accelerate some key projects. On the flip side, they continue the trend of sweeping HURF funds – to the tune of $96M for FY16-17.
Focus on Preservation
Changes for this year include an increased focus on preservation over expansion. Last year’s STIP directed 29 percent of funds towards preservation activities. This year, that jumps to 41 percent. ADOT has set a goal of dedicating $260M/year to preservation activities. The STIP gets them very close to that goal for all five years.
Building & Maintaining Critical Infrastructure
No matter the total, ADOT maintains the largest single Capital Improvement Program by 50 percent. The second largest, City of Phoenix, has a 5-yr total of $3B. The agency is responsible for all major highway projects, airports, and distributing federal funds to recipients including MAG and PAG.
The two projects the state is pushing to accelerate are: $30M to widen I-10 from Early Road to I-8 and the I-10 interchange near the interchange with SR 87; and $25M to improve SR 189 between the Mariposa Port of Entry and I-19.
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