Hello all,

HB2396, the RTAC-led effort to fund $50 million worth of Greater Arizona transportation priority projects, passed the House Transportation Committee by an 11-1 vote last week. Thanks to all of you who contacted your legislators and urged support for the bill.

As indicated last week, the bill will face a much greater challenge in the House Appropriations Committee as Chairman Regina Cobb and other legislators have expressed their desire to limit transportation projects in the state budget to state highways, excluding local roads. The bill is currently not scheduled for consideration by the Committee.

Local roads are heavily dependent on state revenues. The Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) comprises several transportation-related revenue sources that the state collects to fund infrastructure. Through revenue sharing, local governments are prohibited from passing their own fuel & vehicle license taxes & other related fees, and in exchange, they receive roughly half of the HURF revenue that the state collects to fund the local roads.  

State highways and local roads have been impacted greatly by the inaction of lawmakers to increase transportation funding over the years, which over time, has created a revenue/needs gap estimated at over $30 billion on the state highway system alone. The state fuel tax has not been adjusted in 30 years and its purchasing power has been decimated by inflation. This under-investment impacts both state highways and local roads. If lawmakers decide to address some of that shortfall through earmarking general fund revenues for specific projects rather than raising HURF, its highly appropriate and in the public's best interest for local projects to be included in that earmarking.

Please contact your legislators and urge them to support HB2396 and the need to also address local road priorities in the budget. A memo on the subject is attached along with an updated transportation bill matrix. As you can see from the matrix, a lot of bills are under consideration including many for state highway projects which RTAC fully supports. We need to address the needs of both the state highway and local road networks.

Also last week, the State Transportation Board conducted a study session where some preliminary information on ADOT's next five-year construction program update (2023-2027) was provided. There were many positives resulting from the greatly improved funding outlook caused primarily by the recently enacted federal transportation legislation. Due to the new funding levels, ADOT now anticipates being able to exceed its annual maintenance investment targets. It wasn't that long ago when funding levels fell significantly below those targets. Bridge and pavement conditions are now starting to trend slightly upwards rather than deteriorating.

Also, in recent years, ADOT has been shifting towards a moratorium on new construction in Greater Arizona as inadequate funding has steered the Department towards more of a maintenance-only operation. With the improved funding outlook, ADOT anticipates the annual inclusion of new expansion projects in Greater Arizona for the foreseeable future.

A presentation on the program update provided by ADOT's planning division is attached. Also, rather than conducting three public hearings for the program update this year, the Department is leaning towards limiting the hearings to just one in May but relying much more heavily on letters, e-mails and social media for public input which reflects recent interaction trends. More details will follow.

Kevin Adam,
Legislative Liaison
Rural Transportation Advocacy Council