Arizona legislator pushes for privatized toll roads

| 11/19/2007

A leading Arizona state lawmaker says tapping into privatization to build toll roads appears to be the best option to come up with money for new highways.

While the thought of tolling highways is unpopular among many in Arizona, House Transportation Chairman Andy Biggs said it is more palatable to lawmakers than increasing fuel or sales taxes.

The Gilbert, AZ, Republican is co-chairman of a special legislative panel reviewing transportation funding options. The option of tolling is drawing consideration because it no longer is regarded as the topic no one wants to discuss, Biggs told The Associated Press.

He only wants to have tolls on new, privately-financed roads. He is opposed to tolling existing roads.

Any pay-as-you-go road should have free alternate routes, Biggs said.

While Biggs is willing to explore all options except tax increases, Gov. Janet Napolitano is taking into consideration putting before voters a question about whether to impose new taxes to pay for roads.

The governor plans to have a package ready to offer to lawmakers during the regular session that begins in January. That would give state officials time to decide whether to put a tax proposal on the ballot as early as next fall.

Victor Mendez, director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, said coming up with solutions to the state’s funding woes is a complex problem. He said there is no “silver bullet” to solve all future transportation needs, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor