After appropriating $400MM of GENERAL FUNDS last season in order to widen the I-10 freeway between ~ just south of Phoenix to Casa Grande (towards Tucson); the legislature this year is on track to appropriate ANOTHER $360MM (also general funds) to the project, to backfill currently unavailable federal matching funds.
SB1065 appropriation; widening; I-10
Just to re-cap, general funds come from things like state sales taxes, property taxes, and income taxes. Notably, they do not come from gas-taxes, or other motor vehicle user fees.
The widening project enjoys broad bi-partisan support, despite both the House and Senate being nearly evenly divided, with Republicans holding only a one-vote majority; it passed the full senate 27-0.
Enter Senator Hoffman (R-Queen Creek), whose amendment to SB1065: “Prohibits the acceptance of federal monies that require a project component for a bicycle path or pedestrian walkway”
You may recall, that Sen. Hoffman sponsored a whole menu of bills designed to reduce or eliminate biking and walking, all while increasing motoring SB1312, 1313, 1314, and 1697. The last of which his fellow traveler, Sen. Borelli (R-Lake Havasu City) said “In the spirit of cutting down bicycle traffic I vote aye”.
… but back to the amendment during the 2/7 Approp Committee hearing. Sen Hoffman explains that his amendment cannot result in the loss of federal money. I don’t see how that is a truthful explanation, but you should listen to it for yourself. The more important story is the amendment is a complete strawman; NO ONE is proposing building sidewalks or bike lanes on I-10. So why the amendment? read on for excerpts from the hearing:
Committee member Sen Kern (R-Glendale; LD27)
“So yeah and and I think that’s the reason for the amendment was to ensure that we also are very concerned about just widening the the I-10 there and not all these other you know ‘woke type’ implementations at the federal government wants to put into our transportation system. I’ve learned in the past week that you know our transportation system is somehow racist and all that nonsense so we do want the I-10 widened and that’s it, nothing else.”
(1:49:30)”I am not opposed to bike Lanes or walking trails or sidewalks but I think it’s pretty odd and kind of even leans on the side of ridiculous to have bike lanes and sidewalks between Phoenix and Casa Grande alongside the I-10 freeway and so with that I vote aye”
“I don’t think there’s anything environmentally friendly about building a bike path to nowhere which is you know really when you talk about putting bike Lanes or sidewalks on the I-10 one of the most heavily traveled corridors in the entire country with you know speeds of 85, 90 miles an hour; semi trucks left and right and that’s look that’s not the intent of it which is where the amendment came in if we are going to build the road if we’re going to widen this freeway then we want to do it Arizona style that means we want to reduce congestion we want to increase the effectiveness of our roadways”
“…the amendment has nothing to do with refusing federal money; I vote aye”
[wha?? You be the judge; here is Hoffman’s amendment, in it’s entirety: “except that the department may not accept federal monies to pay for the project if the acceptance of the federal monies is conditioned on the design and construction of a bicycle path or pedestrian walkway as a component of the project”]
While nobody is suggesting “building sidewalks on I-10”, it’s quite conceivable that pedestrian overpasses for safety and/or connectivity are indicated somewhere along this stretch, and this would prohibit ADOT from accepting federal money for such.
The remark by Sen Kern relating to racism undoubtedly refers to the fact that Black Americans are overrepresented in traffic crash fatalities, e.g. “Compared to White Americans, Black Americans also experienced traffic deaths at more than twice the rate (2.2) per mile walking, and nearly twice the rate (1.7) per mile driving or riding in a car.” Whether or not this amounts to having a racist transportation system is for greater minds than mine — but it’s clear there is a pedestrian (and possibly bicycling) traffic safety crisis (see chart at the top of page) that AZ legislators don’t want to address.
The more obvious failure of the AZ Republican-controlled legislature is it has utterly failed to adequately fund transportation effectively, and instead increasingly rely on sales and income taxes to build and maintain roads. The gas tax rate has been stagnant for decades at 18.5 cents/gal. Inflation has eroded the value of this every year, the costs of road construction and maintenance have risen faster than the general level of inflation. No VMT fee (another type of user fee) has ever been proposed, but at the moment is on it’s way to being outlawed (SB1312). Economists of all persuasions agree that user fees are more economically efficient than taxes (in this case, taxes from the general fund), and also have the natural effect of reducing externalities (e.g. air pollution). Gas taxes are said to be regressive, but sales taxes are even more so. Other types of taxes, say corporate or personal income taxes, should be minimized in order to promote economic growth.
I supposed it’s worth noting that the legislators involved don’t think this money is going to get spent; Sen Kavanaugh at the conclusion declaring the bill DPA (do pass amended) said:
“I don’t want to be a party pooper (laughter) but anybody who thinks we’re going to put $360 million of general fund money into this is, I think they are delusional”
I don’t really know what he means, I assume it means he’s expecting the federal matching money to materialize(?)
Whatever happened to SB1065?
As of late June, the bill appears stalled, amendment and all, for reasons that presumably have nothing to do with Sen Hoffman’s amendment.
Last Year’s $400 Appropriation
SB1239 55th2R session, sponsored by Sen Shope. It was a simpler time, here is the entire law, nothing about no bike lanes and sidewalks 🙂
APPROPRIATING MONIES TO THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona: Section 1. Appropriation; department of transportation; Interstate 10; widening; exemption A. The sum of $400,000,000 is appropriated from the state general fund in fiscal year 2022-2023 to the department of transportation to widen Interstate 10 between Chandler and Casa Grande. The department shall use the monies for construction-related activities, including drawing down federal matching monies for the project. B. The appropriation made in subsection A of this section is exempt from the provisions of section 35-190, Arizona Revised Statutes, relating to lapsing of appropriations.
Riding Bikes on Freeways
you can read more about Bicycling on Arizona’s freeways (the more specific, technical term is ‘controlled access highway’) here; in ;short, bicycles, pedestrians, and ‘light’ motorcycles are banned generally from freeways in urban areas, and bicyclists are restricted to shoulders of freeways in rural areas.
The section of I-10 involved, between Chandler and Casa Grande, is entirely within the urban envelope upon which bicycling is prohibited.
Furthermore, there is no bike lane on ANY freeway in Arizona; possibly even the entire US; possibly even the world.