Article

June 30, 2017

MAG Transportation Policy Committee - Let's Keep Moving

Mayor Kenneth Weise, City of Avondale
June 21, 2017 Meeting Summary

Message From the Chair

Let's Keep Moving Message From the Chair Kenneth Weise

In his book, “Good to Great,” management consultant Jim Collins challenges businesses to identify their core purpose—their fundamental reason for being. At our June meeting, we delved into the heart of MAG’s core purpose as we reviewed the plans that form the foundation of the region’s transportation system. MAG’s Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), which are the blueprints for future transportation improvements, were up for review and recommendation.

All these decisions have gone through the MAG committee process, from various technical committees, such as the Transportation Review Committee, and through the Management Committee. This review structure allows the TPC to confidently recommend these plans to the Regional Council, which serves as the governing board of MAG.

The importance of the role of the TPC in making these projects happen is recognized in state statute. That statute defines the key duties of the TPC as providing policy recommendations to the Regional Council. The ongoing transportation progress represented in the TIP includes a five-year listing of more than 1,000 project work phases. The rebalancing effort in the Regional Freeway and Highway Program added another $1.25 billion and 37 projects that will improve the backbone of the region’s transportation system between Interstate 10 and Interstate 17, known as the ‘Spine’, with 40 percent of freeway users driving a portion of it every day. Including planned light rail projects, we have $5.7 billion to invest in the region over the next decade, creating 16,000 jobs every year for 10 years. Those numbers make a positive difference, not only in mobility, but also in the quality of life for people around the region.

Mesa Mayor and TPC Chair John Giles could not be with us for this month’s meeting, but I want to commend his service to MAG as TPC Chair over the past year. We look forward to his continued service and contribution to this important policy body. On Mayor Giles' behalf, I would like to thank our fellow TPC members who have worked diligently to make these projects possible. I am confident our elected officials will continue to be great stewards of the federal and regional funding to provide the region’s key infrastructure, and their unwavering commitment to planning efforts that will continue to transform our region into one of the best places to live in the country.

Mayor Kenneth Weise
TPC Chair

TPC Meeting Summary

Pilot Program for a Wrong-Way Vehicle Detection System on I-17

Members of the TPC recommended approval to use $4 million in regional funding for a pilot project to detect and alert the public to wrong-way drivers. About $3.7 million of the funding would be used to install a thermal-detection system on Interstate 17 in Phoenix. The system will alert the wrong-way driver, as well as other drivers and law enforcement, by using flashing lights on freeway ramps, illuminated signs, and messages on overhead boards. Notifications will be sent to the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Traffic Operations Center and the Department of Public Safety. ADOT says it will be the first thermal-detection system in the United States. Seven people have died in wrong-way crashes on Arizona highways so far this year. There were two such deaths last year.

Construction of the thermal camera system is expected to begin this fall on a 15-mile stretch of I-17 from Interstate 10 to the Loop 101. ADOT staff told the committee it will take about seven months for full installation. The total funding includes the $3.7 million plus $300,000 for software. The project is included in the Draft FY 2018-2022 MAG Transportation Improvement Program.

Acceptance of the Draft FY 2017 MAG Final Phase Public Input Opportunity Report

Public input is critical to the transportation planning process. MAG conducts a four phase public involvement process, which provides members of the public the opportunity to comment on draft transportation plans and programs prior to MAG committee action, in accordance with federal law. Members of the TPC heard a summary of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Final Phase Input Opportunity report, which included input on the Draft 2040 MAG Regional Transportation Plan, the Draft FY 2018-2022 Transportation Improvement Program Listing of Projects, the Draft FY 2017 and Working Draft FY 2018 Transit Program of Projects, and the Draft MAG 2017 Air Quality Conformity Analysis.

Outreach included a public hearing on May 9, 2017, small group presentations, and feedback received via e-mail, telephone and website communication. Comments received included requests for transit options from the northwest Valley, concerns about the timing of improvements with light rail along Interstate 17 and Camelback Road, and bus routing along Bell Road and Grand Avenue. The Final Phase Input Opportunity began on April 26, 2017, and ended on May 25, 2017. A summary of all of the comments and staff responses to comments are provided in the Final Phase Input Opportunity Report.

Approval of the Draft FY 2018 Arterial Life Cycle Program

The TPC received an update on the Draft FY 2018 Arterial Life Cycle Program (ALCP), the financial management tool to implement arterial street projects. The ALCP provides a listing of 78 of the original 94 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) arterial projects and maintains budget oversight over the remainder of the 20-year sales tax. The ALCP is updated each year based on new revenue forecasts and updated project schedules.

In early January, MAG distributed ALCP project workbooks to each lead agency to update and/or verify their project schedules and costs. The information returned was incorporated into the Draft FY 2018-2022 MAG Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and includes proposed changes to five projects programmed in the ALCP.

Funding in the ALCP comes from two sources: the half-cent sales tax, also known as the Regional Area Road Fund (RARF) and federal transportation revenues. Staff noted projected revenues are down slightly but reimbursement advancements were made for all ALCP agencies and there were no involuntary deferrals. The program surplus has decreased slightly and the balance is now $30.9 million.

Staff reported no rebalancing of the arterial program is needed at this time, as revenues will vary and the ALCP can meet the short-term demands of the program projects. TPC members voted to move forward the Draft FY 2018 ALCP for approval and inclusion into the Draft 2040 Regional Transportation Plan and Draft FY 2018-2022 Transportation Improvement Program.

Approval of the Draft FY 2018-2022 MAG Transportation Improvement Program

2018-2022 Transportation Improvement Program

The TPC also recommended approval of the Draft FY 2018-2022 MAG Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The TIP has been under development since March 2016 and includes all federally funded projects and regionally significant transportation projects TIP, regardless of funding source. The Clean Air Act Amendments require the five-year program of projects in the TIP also undergo an air quality conformity analyses.

The TIP includes the Arterial Life Cycle Program, Transit Life Cycle Program, and Regional Transportation Plan/Freeway Program. More than 1,000 project work phases are listed, including 227 street/intersection projects, 56 bicycle/pedestrian projects, and 42 freeway/interchange projects. Also included are 28 air quality projects, 24 information technology system projects, 18 bus transit projects, and nine rail transit projects. Staff noted the TIP represents more than $5 billion in transportation investment over the next five years.

Approval of the Draft 2040 MAG Regional Transportation Plan

2040 Regional Transportation Plan

The Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) guides transportation investments in the region, providing a long-range blueprint that extends through fiscal year 2040. The Plan is required to maintain eligibility for federal transportation funding and must be updated at least every four years. The 1990 Federal Clean Air Act Amendments require that regional transportation plans and programs be in conformance with all applicable air quality plans.

The MAG Regional Council approved the Draft 2040 RTP for air quality conformity analysis on March 29, 2017. A technical air quality conformity analysis was performed on the RTP and demonstrated that the Plan meets all air quality conformity requirements.

Staff reported the 2040 RTP updates the current 2035 RTP, incorporates the FY 2018-2022 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), and was reviewed during the public involvement process as noted above.

The RTP includes regional plans for freeways/highways, arterial streets, and public transit, as well as plans for other transportation programs in the region. In addition, the plan addresses topics such as revenue estimates, consultation on environmental mitigation and resource conservation, transportation security and safety, and congestion management. The plan will be amended in the fall to reflect Interstate 11 and State Route 30 major amendments, freeway program rebalancing, Interstate 10 and Interstate 17 ‘Spine’ study recommendations, and other program revisions. Members of the TPC voted to move forward the Draft 2040 MAG RTP to the Regional Council.

Regional Freeway and Highway Program – Modifications to the 2017 Tentative Scenario

On March 29, 2017, the MAG Regional Council approved a Tentative Scenario for Rebalancing of the Regional Freeway and Highway Program (RFHP) to account for a surplus in the cash flow. Since this approval, MAG staff has met with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to discuss the logistics of programming the scenario’s 41 projects over the next 12 years.

As part of this programming process, MAG, ADOT, and FHWA discussed opportunities for enhancing project delivery by combining certain projects to speed implementation and prevent too much construction in one area of the region at any given time. ADOT also noted budget inconsistencies in the Tentative Scenario with the scope proposed for certain projects. Staff informed the TPC an increase in the program amount is requested to cover the scope of these projects and stay consistent with current design and construction practices. Staff also noted that, with these increases, the Regional Freeway and Highway Program still demonstrates positive cash flow through the remainder of the program.

Some of the significant changes to the freeway program include the widening of Interstate 10 and State Route 85 to Verrado Way, reconstructing the traffic interchanges along Interstate 17, and adding a general purpose lane to the outside of the Loop 101 in north Phoenix and Scottsdale. Members of the TPC recommended approval of the modifications to the 2017 RFHP Tentative Scenario, which will be included in the Draft FY 2018-2022 MAG Transportation Improvement Program and the Draft 2040 MAG Regional Transportation Plan.

Arterial Life Cycle Program Project Removal and Gilbert Road Light Rail Extension Funding Reallocation

As noted above, the Arterial Life Cycle Program (ALCP) is the financial management tool for the arterial street component of the Regional Transportation Plan. In October 2012, the MAG Regional Council approved removing 16 City of Mesa arterial projects from the ALCP, and reallocated their federal funding to design and construct a light rail extension in Mesa to Gilbert Road. Since that time, estimated costs for the light rail extension have increased and additional federal funding is needed.

Staff noted the original cost estimate totaled $133 million. With completion of 90 percent design plans in January 2017, the cost estimate was $184 million, an increase of $21.4 million over the available balance. That increase was largely due to a schedule delay and increased project scope. To fund the increase, the City of Mesa has requested that five additional arterial projects be removed from the ALCP and to reallocate the $22,389,393 in programmed federal funding to the Gilbert Road light rail extension.

In late 2016, the City of Mesa conducted a review of its remaining ALCP projects through the end of the funding horizon. After the analysis, it was determined that there were five intersection projects that were not needed because traffic volumes and crash data did not warrant any improvements. The five projects include intersection improvements at Lindsay Road and Brown Road as well as intersections on McKellips Road at Lindsay, Greenfield, Higley, and Recker Roads.

Staff noted the light rail extension is forecast to significantly increase ridership by extending the end of the line 1.9 miles to Gilbert Road. Gilbert Road provides better access to light rail from the eastern portions of Mesa and the East Valley. Benefits of the extension also include expanding the economic development potential and additional ridership system wide. The TPC recommended approval of removing the five projects in the ALCP and reallocating their funding to the Gilbert light rail extension.

Future Meetings and Events

Management Committee 12:00 Noon, Wednesday, August 9, 2017, MAG Offices*, Second Floor, Saguaro Room.
Transportation Policy Committee 12:00 Noon, Wednesday, August 16, 2017, MAG Offices*, Second Floor, Saguaro Room.
Regional Council 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, August 30, 2017, MAG Offices*, Second Floor, Saguaro Room.

*The MAG Offices are located at 302 N.1st Avenue, Phoenix. Meeting rooms are on the second floor. All meetings are subject to change.

Let's Keep Moving E-Update is a monthly electronic newsletter providing information about the Transportation Policy Committee and the implementation of the Regional Transportation Plan. For questions regarding this publication, or to be removed from the distribution list, contact Kelly Taft at (602) 254-6300.

Maricopa Association of Governments | 302 North 1st Avenue, Suite 300 | Phoenix, Arizona 85003 | © 2017