Federal and state money will fuel expansions and improvements to Arizona’s streets and highways over the next few years.
Currently about 132 bridges and 3,193 miles of road in Arizona are in poor condition. According to research done by TripNet, a national research nonprofit, Arizona roads provide a “rough ride,” with 44% of roads and highways in mediocre or poor condition as of 2020.
Fortunately, Arizona drivers may see relief as the state will receive an increase of $200 million a year over the next five fiscal years. This is thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The Arizona Department of Transportation is still awaiting additional guidance from the federal government before knowing where exactly the money can be allocated.
“This legislation has a lot more discretionary monies than in past federal programs and that money will be competitively distributed in various programs by (U.S. Department of Transportation). States, local governments and other stakeholders will be able to apply for those grants,” Steven Polzin, a civil engineering professor at Arizona State University said in an email. Polzin was also a former adviser for the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“There will be multiple opportunities to seek funding for various needs across the program areas and over the five years of the authorization. Each grant opportunity will have a notice of funding opportunity released that will identify the evaluation criteria for awards,” Polzin said.
A statement from the White House highlights how roadway conditions impact Arizonans. Officials say 132 bridges and more than 3,100 miles of highway are considered to be in poor condition in the state. These conditions have increased travel times in Arizona by 11%. On average, an Arizona driver will pay $614 in repairs per year due to the conditions.
TomTom International is a company that tracks traffic data across the world. Phoenix traffic is better than many other cities, ranking 58th on a list of 93 North American cities in 2021. However, Phoenix motorists are still losing 34 hours a year to traffic. As the city grows, it is becoming necessary to expand roadways to meet demands.
Cyclists and Pedestrians
Though roadway conditions make most people think of drivers, they are not the only ones affected. Cyclists and pedestrians also share the road and are considering the impact that Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and other improvement plans will have on them.
Joey Iuliano is a University of Arizona lecturer in the School of Landscape Architecture and Planning. He is also president of the Arizona Bicycle Racing Association. He said that, despite the funding being given to infrastructure for biking and pedestrians, it’s still small compared to funding given to expanding roadways. He believes this reflects the grip that car-centric transportation has on the U.S.
Iuliano said that more people would consider traveling by bike or foot if they felt safe. Because of the health benefits of walking and cycling plus the lower fossil fuel emissions can lead to better health outcomes.
Iuliano says that car accidents are often blamed on the driver, when in actuality, the way the roads are constructed also comes into play. The number of lanes and wideness of roads impacts how quickly people drive, which causes accidents.
“Behavior matches what we build and if you make it really easy to drive quickly, then people are going to do it. And then that ends up being super, super uncomfortable and dangerous for people on foot or bike,” Iuliano said. “Because at most you’re going to have a five-foot bike lane with the stripe of paint and paint isn’t going to stop someone from driving into the bike lane and running you over. It’s also just unnerving to ride next to something like that.”
According to Iuliano, more people in America would consider biking, but they do not feel safe. “There’s lots of places that are still lacking in that infrastructure. So, depending on where you’re going you don’t have a lot of options besides riding on some of the busier streets and it’s and it’s really unpleasant, to put it mildly,” Iuliano said.
Earlier this year, the Arizona Legislature approved a $400 million spending bill. This bill will be put toward widening a 25-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between Queen Creek Road in Chandler and State Route 387 in Casa Grande. The bill was sponsored by Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge.
Rep. Richard Andrade, D-Glendale, voted yes on this bill, but said more investment was needed for Arizona roadway infrastructure. He said all roadways in Arizona need to be widened.
Interstate 10 will be expanded to three lanes in both directions. According to an Arizona Department of Transportation press release in May, this project will work to “alleviate long standing traffic congestion.” Because of this approval, ADOT can also submit a request for $300 million of federal money, which will also go to the I-10 project.
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