May 25th, 2011
Guest column by Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward Association.
Arizonans are spending a higher percentage of their income on transportation than ever before. But most state residents are not providing input on transportation investment decisions. It’s not for lack of opportunity, however.
The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is encouraging the community and stakeholders to engage in the process. The State Long Range Transportation Plan and Five-Year Construction Program outline envisioned improvements, which are assigned funding and eventually built. The long term regional plan is updated every five years, with the next adoption scheduled for July 1, 2011, which is soon upon us.
In addition to maintaining our current transportation system, we must also anticipate and provide for increases and changes in the state’s population. Congestion is expected to worsen, especially in the urban areas between Flagstaff and Tucson, as the state’s population is projected to increase to more than 11 million by 2035 – a nearly 70 percent increase from today’s 6.5 million residents.
Clearly, we can not address future congestion by continuing to rely almost exclusively on roadways to move people and goods. Rail adds a highly sustainable alternative form of transportation to the mix. ADOT is currently setting priorities for intercity, commuter and high‐speed rail service and developing financial estimates to complete the Arizona rail network in the Statewide Rail Framework Study.
This study will help build momentum for future funding of an expanded rail system. Although Arizona has not received any American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants for high-speed rail investment to date, the Phoenix-Tucson Corridor is part of the Obama Administration’s strategic high-speed rail investment priorities. ADOT is also conducting an Intercity Rail Study to evaluate the significant challenges and opportunities to connecting Phoenix and Tucson with an intercity rail, linking major population and economic centers in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima Counties.
ADOT has been proactively soliciting community and stakeholder comments in the preparation of its transportation‐related studies. Informing and gathering feedback from individuals and organized groups who live, work or have a stake in an area potentially affected by a transportation project can mean the difference between poor transportation decisions made in a vacuum and decisions that improve quality of life.
Initial meetings are scheduled in late June for agencies and interested stakeholders to provide input about the objectives of the Intercity Rail Study and the methodologies they will use to compare alternatives. The current project schedule includes public involvement activities beginning this fall. Be a part of the solution and make sure your voice is heard – our village is depending on it!