Building and expanding public transportation, including light rail, is a focus for the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG). Pictured is work being done in Phoenix on the new CityScape Station on the eastside of Central Avenue as part of the new South Central Extension/Downtown Hub light rail project. (Photo courtesy of Kiewit)

Spotlight on Fast-Growing Arizona: Federal Funding is Critical to Maricopa Region’s Transportation Network

“The state DOT is being put in a position where they have to do more with less — it’s challenging and we’re seeing that in Maricopa County. As we consider the framework and some of these investments, we also have to think about what the impact those investments will have on the maintenance side and on the capital rehabilitation side,” Bullen underscores.

“[We’ve learned that] the amount of economic benefit that they bring to the region is tremendous, but really the point that we’re getting to is where we have to start balancing whether or not we can actually maintain these investments. Do we have the funding to actually keep them in a state of good repair or do we have to forego them because the money is not there? And so that’s tough. That’s certainly something that our policymakers wrestle with.”

Arizona is still building out its road network, which includes new projects, rehabilitation and keeping infrastructure in a state of good repair. Construction of the U.S. 60 (Superstition Freeway) and Loop 202 (Red Mountain Freeway/Santan Freeway) interchange was funded by the region’s dedicated transportation sales tax. (Photo courtesy of FNF Construction Inc.)

The community feedback MAG receives emphasizes a need for access and transportation diversification, but also shows that there is deep support for transportation investments that meet MAG’s objectives of safety, mobility, responsiveness, livability, preservation and prosperity. MAG invites citizens to share input, has good communications and support from local officials (such as mayors), and an informative website: azmag.com.

Bullen outlines some important strategies and project investments:

  • Setting aside funding for emerging technologies;
  • Building in flexibility in its newly minted plan so policymakers can respond to changing circumstances;
  • Setting aside funding for certain types of investments, but realizing that identifying specific investments may not happen until three to six years down the line;
  • A new freeway facility, State Route 30 (the Tres Rios Freeway), to provide relief to I-10;
  • More bicycle and pedestrian improvements;
  • Additional light rail expansion, while keeping the existing infrastructure in a state of good repair, which will run about $1.1 billion over the next 25 years; and
  • Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which is a newer mode for the region.

“We have this uncertain future, right? We know technology is rapidly developing but we don’t know what that impact will be on the transportation network. And so part of our challenge is to identify those investments that are resilient regardless of what happens in the future. And so that’s one of the big exercises that we went through as we try to identify different transportation investment packages,” says Bullen. “But absent continued and predictable state and federal investments, improvements will be more difficult.”

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