Arizona DOT Warns on Funding, Plans to Shift More Toward Preservation Work

AASHTO Journal, 29 May 2015

The Arizona Department of Transportation is telling state residents to prepare for a funding squeeze on highway projects, and a shift by ADOT to put more of its efforts into maintaining current infrastructure to avoid higher replacement costs in the future.

The agency on May 26 wrapped up months of public comment for its tentative five-year plan, which the State Transportation Board is expected to finalize in a June 19 meeting. The process included a series of public meetings in various cities, along with online comments for the board to consider.

But ADOT has made clear that it faces tough choices on maintaining the road and bridge network.

“Limited funding amid growing statewide transportation needs continue to be the biggest challenge over the next five years,” the agency said in a recent news release.

“Fewer dollars dedicated to transportation is a result of less revenue from traditional sources of transportation funding, like the state gas tax and vehicle license tax, which support the Five-Year Program. The state gas tax is currently 18 cents per gallon and has not been increased for more than 20 years.”

Inside the tentative plan document, ADOT explained the trends that are working against its revenue stream. “Growth in Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) revenues continues to lag, even as the rest of the economy begins to recover,” it said.

“Fuel tax revenues, which represent over 50 percent of the funds flowing into the HURF, are weak as consumer’s transition to more fuel efficient vehicles. Vehicle License Taxes, another source of revenue for the HURF, while growing, have not yet recovered to pre-recession levels.”

And inside the document that the public could view this spring, ADOT noted that the federal highway program is uncertain as well. It said federal aid, “which provides the majority of funding for Arizona’s transportation system, also continues to be a concern … as Congress continues to struggle with transportation funding and declining fuel tax revenues.”

The state agency said those “transportation funding challenges have signaled a shift to a strong focus on the preservation of the state highway system, to protect a system valued at $19.7 billion. If ADOT did not invest in preservation, it would cost approximately $200 billion to replace our existing highway infrastructure, should it fall into disrepair.”

ADOT said it remains “committed to moving major expansion projects forward as well,” but warned that with fewer transportation dollars to stretch, “fewer expansion projects make it into the Five-Year Program.”

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