MAG News

Billions of dollars are needed. Little to no funding exists for major new transportation projects. That was the brutal reality staring us in the face during the recent Sun Corridor Transportation Summit.

"Why We Can't Sit Idle" by Mayor Gail Barney

RegionalCouncil, Transportation

Billions of dollars are needed. Little to no funding exists for major new transportation projects. That was the brutal reality staring us in the face during the recent Sun Corridor Transportation Summit hosted by the Joint Planning Advisory Council. Our panelists made it clear that this is of significant concern due to aging infrastructure, our growing population, and a host of unmet transportation needs around the state.

With the Arizona gas tax fixed at 18 cents per gallon since 1991, the combined effect of inflation and increasing fuel economy reduces the dollars available each year to maintain the most important part of our transportation infrastructure. 

By not tying the gas tax to inflation, we are reducing funding to the Arizona Highway User Revenue fund on an annual basis. This means less money year-over-year for the primary source of funding for highway and street maintenance and improvements throughout the state. Think about it: how hard it would be to balance your household budget today based on your income in 1991?

Forty-six states have raised their gas tax since Arizona last did, with many states doing so recently. There is not enough funding to pay for basic street and highway maintenance, let alone new freeways. Take for example, the proposed North-South Freeway Corridor in Pinal County. For the East Valley, including my own community of Queen Creek, this expansion is critical as our arterial roadways are beyond capacity. Without additional funding, we can’t pay for improvements to I-17, I-10, or I-40. 

These projects are essential for Arizona to maintain its global competitiveness. As noted in our cover story, I-17 is shut down an average of 26 times a year between Anthem and Sunset Point. That is once every two weeks, lasting three hours at a time. The result? Delays, missed appointments, and massive frustration. Businesses lose clients—and profits—when they fail to meet delivery schedules. In fact, the cost of delay to the freight industry nationwide is $75 billion.

The need to improve our key commerce corridors is clear. What is at stake? Safety. Economic prosperity. Increased traffic. While raising the gas tax is just one proposed solution, there may be others that lawmakers or voters prefer. We encourage all ideas and viewpoints in solving this challenge. However, sitting back and letting our buying power continue to diminish while our streets and highways crumble is not acceptable. 

The Sun Corridor Transportation Summit brought together extraordinary leaders. It included representatives from state and local governments throughout Arizona, as well as business leaders who rely on transportation. These are the people we need working together. For all our differences, each of us recognizes the value that transportation brings to our daily life. I am confident that if we put all of our best ideas forward, we can find meaningful, comprehensive solutions to address our funding needs.  

Published January 27, 2019

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The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) is a Council of Governments (COG) that serves as the regional planning agency for the metropolitan Phoenix area.

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