As director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, I take strong exception to the headline and tone of the Nov. 9 article on funding for highway projects around the state.
ADOT has diligently worked to balance the needs of all communities across the state to meet the current and future transportation demands necessary to support our state’s economy and mobility.
The fact is plain: Some communities, including Maricopa and Gila counties, tax themselves to fund additional transportation projects. That’s how much of the regional freeway system around Phoenix has been constructed —through a one-half-cent regional sales tax that Maricopa County voters have twice approved.
ADOT’s overall construction budget had to be reduced by $350 million for this fiscal year, and additional reductions will be necessary in the future. The gas taxes and vehicle license fees — the primary revenue sources that support highway construction in Arizona — don’t bring in what they once did.
ADOT is keenly aware of the needs of the Rim Country. Improvements along state routes 87 and 260 illustrate our commitment to modernize the state transportation system as funding is available. The resources are simply not available to fund all of the needs across the state with current revenue. ADOT has to live within its means and our budget has limitations.
During this year’s public hearings on development of ADOT’s five-year work plan, residents from across the state made their case before the State Transportation Board to advocate for their projects of interest. Unfortunately, transportation revenues continue to decrease and there is simply not enough funding for every project.
Concepts like Interstate 11 and passenger rail between Phoenix and Tucson are just that — concepts. There is no funding for either of these projects to move beyond preliminarily studies, which use federal funds designated for transportation studies. To assert that ADOT has somehow been negligent ignores the significant transportation system improvements that have occurred around Arizona.
John S. Halikowski, director, Arizona Department of Transportation