If you're one of the thousands of Valley residents stuck in gridlock on a regular basis, theres some bad news. Were in a transportation funding crisis.
The Transportation & Infrastructure Moving AZ's Economy (TIME) Coalition has proposed raising $42 billion in sales taxes to fund transportation projects through 2030. Only $24.7 billion goes to freeways and highways, while $7.7 billion is slated for trains, and another $10.2 billion goes to local projects and enhancements such as walking and biking paths.
If you'd rather see your money spent on roads and freeways that you'll actually use, you probably don't like 42 cents of every dollar going to fund far less useful projects. You might be even unhappier to discover you have no choice in the matter. The TIME plan is to put all the transportation modes into a single ballot proposition, so if you want to avoid rush-hour meltdowns, you have to vote for all their other stuff, too. That's the inherent weakness in tax-funded road building. Decisions are made based on politics.
We can pay for roads indirectly through taxes or we can pay when we actually use the roads. We get much more for our money in the user pays system.
Private companies involved in road building are highly incentivized to construct projects travelers really need and will use. Twenty-one states are now finding public-private partnerships that allow access to large sources of private capital.
The sales tax should be a last resort for road building. Its regressive, it taxes people who never use roads, and it stifles the economy. The right mix for transportation funding includes privatized projects.
Tom Patterson is chairman of the Goldwater Institute, a former state legislator and emergency room physician. A longer version of this article originally appeared in the East Valley Tribune.
Goldwater Institute: More Roads to Travel: A Path to Transportation Solutions in Arizona
East Valley Tribune: Road to ruin: Taxes instead of user fees
Arizona Republic: Funds for new Arizona roads declining