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Roads in peril: Elevating the discussion of Arizona’s transportation network

As we go about our daily commute and our lives, we often don’t give much thought to the roads that get us there. Traffic congestion and construction seem to be an accepted way of life, especially for those who live in the suburbs and commute to work each day.

However, the stark truth is that our state’s transportation infrastructure isn’t keeping pace with our growing needs. With more people on our roads and transportation funds dwindling, the situation is dire.

The decline in state roadwork certainly isn’t due to a lack of growth. According to TRIP, a nonprofit research group, Arizona’s population grew 79 percent between 1990 and 2012, and highway travel increased 68 percent from 1990 to 2011. According to the Federal Highways Association, one in five roads in Arizona is in mediocre or poor condition, and 12 percent of the state’s bridges is rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Our transportation needs across the state and nation are significant and growing. Each year that necessary upgrades are delayed, the cost to complete these projects rises and the country falls farther behind. These effects are felt acutely in Arizona, as funding for transportation projects and maintenance has been slashed roughly $350 million.

How does this affect road users?

• Driving on roads in need of repair costs the average road user about $370 per year in vehicle repairs and operating costs.

• Nearly half of the state’s major highways are congested, costing drivers money in wasted time and fuel.

• Road conditions are a significant factor in about one-third of traffic fatalities.

• Vehicle crashes cost $833 annually for every Arizona residentt — not just drivers — in lost productivity and travel delays as well as medical, workplace, insurance and legal costs.

As an advocate for the safety and security of the motoring public, AAA recognizes the importance of safe and adequate transportation infrastructure. It’s the reason we were founded in 1902 and continues to be at the core of our mission.

While policymakers must balance all of our state’s needs with fewer resources, it’s time we elevate this discussion. Tough decisions need to be made in order to ensure the safety of all road users while meeting Arizona’s transportation needs.

The decisions lawmakers make about our transportation network have as much direct impact on our daily lives as anything else they do. An adequate transportation system is critical to our commerce, economic vitality and the safety and mobility of all Arizonans.

— Mike Tully is the president and CEO of AAA Arizona.

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