Don’t expect the Mazatzal Rest Area, at the junction of Highways 87 and 188, to reopen anytime soon after the Arizona Department of Transportation announced Thursday it is closing 12 other rest areas to deal with budget potholes.
Currently, ADOT is dealing with a $100 million budget shortfall by reducing services, closing offices and reducing highway construction, maintenance and staff.
ADOT plans to close 12 Motor Vehicle Division field offices and reduce staff by 10 percent beginning this month.
Which MVD offices will close has not been determined.
ADOT Director John Halikowski said more than $500 million in transportation funding has been diverted in the past year to deal with the state’s budget crisis.
“ADOT’s customers pay their own way by using transportation services, but because the state is using transportation funds to pay for other needs and people are buying less fuel and fewer vehicles, we are simply running out of money,” he said.
While ADOT received $350 million in federal funding for “shovel ready” projects through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, state funding for other projects will be cut by $370 million over the next four years.
The immediate signs of ADOT’s actions to “weather the storm” will be at highway rest areas.
Beginning the week of Oct. 19, 13 rest areas will be closed, leaving five ADOT and more than a dozen non-ADOT-operated rest areas open along the highways.
Rest areas to be closed are: Bouse Wash, Canoa Ranch, Ehrenberg, Hassayampa, Haviland, McGuireville, Meteor Crater, Mohawk, Parks, San Simon and Sacaton. Mazatzal and Salt River Canyon are already closed due to water system issues.
ADOT said it plans to develop a partnership program with businesses to welcome travelers who need to use their rest room facilities.
ADOT says the challenge ahead is having sufficient state highway money to match federal transportation funding collected through gas taxes.
Without matching funds, Arizona risks losing its share of federal funds, meaning gas taxes paid by Arizonans would fund improvements in other states, a release states.
In the 2009 fiscal year, ADOT used all of its federally allocated funding.
“Drivers will continue to see projects being built across the state because the federal government sends money to Arizona for highway construction,” Halikowski said. “That money is restricted by federal and state laws to pay for construction activities and cannot be used for general operations, such as MVD services.”
Landscaping and graffiti removal will occur less frequently or not at all.
“All of this deferred maintenance and construction work will have to be done at some point,” Halikowski said. “These needs are not going away, but we recognize the responsibility to address short-term financial issues while prioritizing what must be done. Drivers will notice a difference, unfortunately.”
This is the second year of major cost reductions for ADOT.
Last fiscal year, ADOT cut $60 million by reducing employee expenses, requiring employees to furlough one work day per pay period, cutting highway maintenance activities, reducing operational costs and eliminating consultants and other support costs.