Arizona lawmakers review road funding sources, including tolls

| 10/10/2007

State lawmakers in Arizona are working to come up with more revenue to pay for transportation projects.

It is estimated the state needs anywhere from $20 billion to $40 billion to pay for transportation projects during the next 20 years.

The Legislature’s Blue Ribbon Transportation Committee is tossing around options to help alleviate congestion on the state’s roadways. One option expected to get further consideration is the possibility of building new toll roads. Private groups also could be tapped to cover the expense of construction.

The 10-member panel was created by lawmakers this past spring. They are responsible for reviewing transportation studies and making recommendations to the House and Senate during the 2008 session on what needs to be done to meet transportation needs.

Although he is opposed to turning existing roads in toll routes, Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said using tolls to help finance new roads is a better option than increasing fuel taxes. Gould is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee and the blue-ribbon panel.

Critics say toll programs in other states have not been the solution they were touted to be by advocates. Others say toll routes can make traffic worse in some cases.

Gould said he understands that toll roads are not popular among residents in the state but said he believes the condition of the state’s roadways may make people rethink their views, The Associated Press reported.

Other options to boost revenue include increasing the state’s fuel tax rates and 5.6 percent sales tax. A penny increase to the sales tax could bring in $1 billion annually.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Arizona in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor