ADOT weighs construction options ahead of millions in cuts

May 16, 2013

The State Transportation Board will soon be choosing from three options for its latest five-year construction program, but each plan means difficult choices. 

The Arizona Department of Transportation said less federal money and less revenue from gas and vehicle license taxes means it will cut $350 million from its 2014-2018 construction program. Three scenarios are on the table, one that focuses on preservation, one that focuses on expansion and one that balances the two. The cuts will be felt around Arizona, most significantly in places outside the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas.

“There are going to be some tough choices ahead," said Laura Douglas, ADOT spokeswoman. "Not everyone is going to be happy, but with $350 million coming out of the program, it’s looking like we’re going to have to move toward more of a preservation-based system.”

Douglas warned the funding problem is not going away anytime soon.

“There’s a lot of support for passenger rail between Phoenix and Tucson," Douglas said. "There’s a lot of support behind Interstate 11 from Phoenix to Las Vegas. The big question remains, how do we fund these projects?”

“Around the country, we’re finding that the gas tax is not enough," said Andrew Herrmann, past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Herrmann said more fuel-efficient cars means gas tax revenue keeps dropping, and that Arizona’s gas tax has not increased for more than 20 years, but he wants to see transportation departments find ways to fund infrastructure.

“Investing not only pays back several times what you invested, but it also makes life easier," Herrmann said. "It starts taking the congestion out of the roads, [and] gets our bridges in better shape.”

ADOT is taking public comments through the end of business Friday. The State Transportation Board is expected to vote on a five-year program at its meeting June 14.