Infrastructure in the Arizona budget

Arizona is putting nearly $300 million towards infrastructure projects in the state.

Nationally, failing infrastructure is a growing problem, and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) estimates the United States needs to invest $1.09 trillion towards infrastructure.

“Every year, America is falling further behind on infrastructure. Today, infrastructure investment is only one-third of what it was in 1960 and without action…we will lose 5.8 million jobs by 2040,” NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said.

In Arizona’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget that Governor Doug Ducey (R-AZ) signed Friday, the state is putting $283 million towards infrastructure.

“This budget learns from the mistakes of the past, and it makes a historic down payment on Arizona’s future. It’s proof that Arizona knows how to come together to do the things that matter,” Ducey said.

In 2015, Arizona earned a C grade on the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) infrastructure report card, which also outlines recommendations to address infrastructure needs.

The FY 2020 budget plans for the future and invests in the state’s infrastructure by including money for multiple projects around the state.

Interstate 17

The budget includes $130 million over three years to expand Interstate 17, which is important for Arizonans traveling north.

According to the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), expanding the I-17 will improve safety on the freeway by providing flexibility and additional capacity during heavy traffic.

“New lanes will play a role in improved safety, but driver behavior remains the key,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said in a statement. “The reality is that a reduction in speeding, sudden lane changes and impaired driving would reduce crashes, closures and frustrating traffic backups along this corridor.”

ADOT reports that the initial construction of a third southbound I-17 lane between Black Canyon City and Anthem, a critical commerce corridor, will begin in 2020.

In 2021, ADOT plans to start building “flex lanes” between Black Canyon City and Sunset point. Flex lanes will have movable barriers and will operate as a separate two-lane system that will carry vehicles in one direction depending on traffic needs.

Expanding broadband services:

The budget also allocates $3 million to expand broadband services in underserved rural areas.

Reaching 100 kilobits per second (kbps) per student will open the door to digital learning opportunities by allowing teachers to start integrating technology in the classroom.

According to the Arizona Department of Education, 23 percent of Arizona school districts meet national affordability benchmarks for broadband access and many schools in Arizona’s rural areas cannot access internet that is fast enough to support digital learning.

“Increasing internet access is crucial to preparing our students for success in the classroom and beyond. We must do all we can to ensure every school has access to internet speeds that can support the rapid innovation and technology that is shaping the future of K-12 education,” Ducey said.

Mariposa Port of Entry:

Produce imports boost Arizona’s economy.

Nogales, Arizona was the biggest port for fresh imports until the mid-2000s when it was replaced by Texas ports that had facilities to process berries and other temperature-sensitive fruits.

In 2018, more than 6.3 billion pounds of fresh produce came through Nogales alone. The budget allocates $700,000 for the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales to build a cold inspection facility that is expected to increase the number of fresh imports transferred through the port.

“With better temperature controls and more modern infrastructure, we think it would entice certain products that aren’t crossed at Nogales to use the facility, which would increase trade and traffic, and drive more economic input here in Arizona,” Scott Vandervoet, chairman of the board of Fresh Produce Association of the Americas in Nogales said.

Priority infrastructure projects:

The state’s infrastructure needs to keep up with Arizona’s rapidly growing population. To help invest in the future of Arizona, the budget will put $95.3 million towards targeted priority infrastructure projects.

The nearly $100 million is in addition to the baseline funding for transportation and infrastructure and will be used for targeted transportation projects to improve safety and increase economic development.

One priority project is investing an additional $10.5 million to preventative road resurfacing and provide Arizonans with a safer, smoother drive. That means Arizona will now have $51 million to maximize the life of highways.

All of these budgeted projects work towards the ASCE report card’s five key solutions to fix Arizona’s infrastructure, which include:

  1. Good maintenance: “Sometimes it’s all about the basics, and maintenance is the basic, first step to good infrastructure,”

  2. Investing in infrastructure: “Arizona has seen exciting new infrastructure projects over the last decade become selling points for the state and bring in new residents and businesses. New investments in critical corridors and freight connections can lead to new opportunities,”

  3. Infrastructure health check-ups: “Just like your body, infrastructure is a system. The water pipes and roads and railways are the arteries that keep the state moving so it’s worth asking – how is your area’s infrastructure doing? Just like a physical, infrastructure needs regular evaluations,”

  4. Stop borrowing from infrastructure funds: “Arizona’s leaders have to make tough budget choices, but not using infrastructure dollars for needed projects today will lead to more expensive project costs down the road and infrastructure conditions that hinder growth rather than support it,”

  5. Plan for the future: “Arizona’s projected growth is both an opportunity and a challenge. It will require continued focus by the state’s leaders to adopt sustainable practices and innovate to be competitive.”

To read the full budget, click here.

Emily Richardson

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