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  • Transportation experts: Steps must be taken to avert looming funding crisis

    Apr 17, 2014 | Read More News
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    Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry on Thursday urged residents to send a copy of the Wizard of Oz to their congressional and legislative representatives: Fixing the transportation problem in this country and in the region is going to take the courage of the lion and the heart of the tin man, he said, but it has to be done.none

    Huckelberry’s remarks came as he welcomed 1,500 participants to the 63rd annual Arizona Conference on Roads and Streets, and as speakers warned that an economic crisis is looming without congressional action to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund from going broke by September 2014.

    If that happens, it will put a grinding halt to federal dollars that flow through the states to fund road improvements, cautioned Frederick Wright, the former director of the Federal Highway Administration and the executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

    That means if a contractor finishes work on a project and submits a bill, he explained, either the states will have to float the money or the contractor will see a potentially lengthy delay in getting paid. More than 6,000 projects will not happen and 650,000 direct jobs will be jeopardized, he projected, potentially triggering another recession.

    Karla Petty, with the Arizona Division Administration for the Federal Highway Administration, said the office is providing monthly updates to states on the status of the fund so they can be prepared to float revenues or think about whether they may have to cancel projects.

    Wright noted that the average resident pays $46 a month in federal and state gas taxes – considerably less than the average $160 a month electricity bill or $124 cable bill. The federal gasoline tax hasn’t been raised since 1993. In Arizona, the state gasoline tax has remained at the same level since 1991.

    Huckelberry noted that transportation investment, from railroads to dams to interstates, has always led to economic prosperity. Sustained disinvestment has taken its toll, he cautioned, not only in the condition of our roads currently, but in fostering the next economic expansion in this country.

    Arizona in 1991 was able to invest $185 per capita in its transportation systems, Huckelberry noted, adding that between population growth and inflation, that number today is $85. “Everyone needs to understand that it’s going to take a little bit of courage to reinvest in transportation, but that investment has proven to pay off in economic stability and growth,” he said.