PHOENIX —It is the perfect storm that’s been brewing for the last few years as the effects of the economic downturn hit us all. The Arizona Department of Transportation has been forecasting dramatic funding challenges since 2009 that will affect projects across our state. Those economic predictions have now become a reality as ADOT begins to map out its next Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program.
The Five-Year Program is updated every year and serves as a blueprint that details where, when and how regional, state and federal funding will be spent for projects over the next five years to improve our state’s transportation infrastructure. For the 2014-2018 Five-Year Program (which is still a tentative program right now), ADOT has determined that $350 million must be cut due to stagnant revenue from the gas and vehicle license taxes and from decreased federal funding.
As a result, the next Five-Year Program reflects a major focus on preserving our existing state highway system while moving some programmed projects forward. Other programmed projects in the Five-Year Program will need to be delayed to future years due to significantly less funding. Preserving our system means protecting our investment of $18.4 billion; this is the value of the state highway system through monies spent on expansion, modernization and preservation projects.
Over the next five years, there will be less focus on expansion of the system statewide. This is the first Five-Year Program that will reflect this dramatic change for the agency. This issue will be present in 2013, but will become much more pronounced by 2016, when $250 million will be cut from the program, and in 2017, when an additional $100 million will be cut from the program.
“We are at a crossroads,” said ADOT Director John Halikowski. “The time has come to make some tough decisions about how to spend our limited transportation dollars. We are standing at a wide funding gap between the need for future transportation options and the reality of insufficient funds to pay for them. We need to move forward with a plan that focuses on preserving the good work we’ve done in creating a state highway system that connects communities and economies.”
The public comment period for the Tentative Five-Year Program begins on March 8. As ADOT moves toward a preservation-based system, there are three scenarios that are being considered for implementation. All three scenarios are available for public comment:
- Scenario A – Focus on Preservation: This scenario focuses the most investment on keeping the existing highway system in good repair with the least investment in programmed major projects in greater Arizona. There would be 81 preservation projects from 2014 to 2016, 39 bridge projects, one major project and 690 miles of pavement projects. An average of $184 million per year in preservation from 2014 through 2018 would be allocated. Arizona’s interstate system is projected to fall below current standards for pavement quality in 2031 with this scenario.
- Scenario B – Focus on Programmed Major Projects: This scenario focuses the most investment on major projects that are programmed in greater Arizona with the lowest investment in keeping existing highways in good repair through preservation. There would be nine major projects from 2014 to 2017. From 2014 to 2016, there would be 25 bridge projects and 458 miles of pavement projects. An average of $142 million per year in preservation from 2014 to 2018 would be allocated. Arizona’s interstate system is projected to fall below current standards for pavement quality in 2017 with this scenario.
- Scenario C – Combination of Preservation and Major Projects: This scenario focuses on some investment in major projects that are programmed in greater Arizona with less investment in keeping existing highways in good repair. There would be four major projects from 2014 to 2017, 39 bridge projects from 2014 to 2018 and 524 miles of pavement projects. An average of $149 million per year in preservation from 2014 to 2018 would be allocated. Arizona’s interstate system is projected to fall below current standards for pavement quality in 2021 with this scenario.
The 2014-2018 Tentative Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program will be available for public review and comment beginning on March 8 at www.azdot.gov. ADOT has developed a “how to read it” guide and welcomes feedback at FiveYearProgram@azdot.gov. A phone comment line will also be available for callers to leave their comments and ask questions. That number is 1.855.712.8530.
The State Transportation Board will consider all public comments received by May 17. Public hearings will be conducted on March 8 in Phoenix, April 12 in Tucson and May 10 in Flagstaff to allow for additional community input. The board is expected to adopt the final 2014-2018 Five-Year Program at the June 14 meeting in Pinetop-Lakeside.