By Rebekah Morris for AZBEX
Extension of current ½ cent sales tax may be presented to voters as early as November 2022.
The Maricopa Association of Governments, the Regional Transportation Planning Authority, has released their draft Regional Transportation Plan and associated Transportation Improvement Program. Taken together, the documents provide both a long-term vision for transportation planning in the region, as well as a short-term discrete list of funded projects to be implemented in the next few years.
Central to funding the long-range plan is a 25-year extension of the current half-cent sales tax levied in Maricopa County. That existing tax has been in place for since 1985 and has provided critical funding for massive investment in public assets such as light rail and improvements to the freeway system.
Currently known as Prop 400, this tax is set to expire on 12-31-2025. MAG and its 32 agency members have unanimously approved a plan that would ask voters to extend the current half-cent sales tax as early as November 2022, enabling long-range planning efforts to continue past the sunset of the current measure.
Transportation Planning Incorporates Locally Funded Projects
MAG serves as the region’s transportation planning and programming entity, also responsible for funding and policy decisions on behalf of the 32 member agencies. MAG relies on its implementing agencies for procurement and delivery of regionally significant transportation projects.
- ADOT procures, designs, and constructs delivers highway and freeway projects.
- Valley Metro procures, designs, and constructs light rail and streetcar projects.
- Cities, towns, counties and Native nations within MAG procure, design, and construct arterial roadway projects.
Part of MAG’s planning responsibilities involves layering in projects that are entirely locally funded – or funded from a combination of local, state and federal funds – into a single long-range plan. The intent of the RTP is to provide one comprehensive document that identifies all regionally significant transportation projects.
The MOMENTUM 2050 website provides a great interactive map of projects proposed for 2026-2050 and can be found here.
Next Steps – Legislation Enabling Ballot Measure
The proposed MOMENTUM investment plan was unanimously supported by all 32 member agencies in June 2021. According to Audra Koester Thomas, transportation planning program manager for MAG, this unanimous support reinforces the vision of the member agencies that transportation investment is good for all residents in the region and the half-cent sales tax is justified. The investments in transportation made since the beginning of Prop 300 back in 1985 have benefited residents and businesses in the region and state of Arizona, and the support of a plan for new investments out to the year 2050 validates the approach for continued regional investment.
MAG is planning to take the next step of requesting approval from the state legislature to enable MAG to present the extension of the half-cent sales tax measure to Maricopa County voters. This legislative approval will be sought in early 2022. When successful, voters in Maricopa County will see a question on the ballot in November 2022 to again extend the existing half-cent sales tax measure for another 25 years.
Transportation Needs Still Exceed Available Funding
As part of the RTP planning process, MAG member agencies set out to determine the relevance and general need for funding transportation projects. Members proposed a list of more than 1,400 projects, programs and transportation ideas that would benefit residents if funding were made available. MAG was then tasked with evaluating the list against a performance-based process as required by federal and state law.
When evaluated, a funding deficit of more than $90B in needs was revealed, according to Koester Thomas, emphasizing the growing transportation demands of the region. She went on to describe that, in a fiscally constrained environment, tough choices must be made. Projects were grouped together, some were eliminated based on expected performance, and eventually a discrete list of approximately 300 projects and programs were identified and proposed for funding.
Drafts of MAG’s long-range RTP and short-range TIP can be found here. MAG has also built a website dedicated to educating the public about future transportation planning called MOMENTUM and can be found here.