Saturday, December 3, 2011

South Mountain vs. Hassayampa: Ever Heard of Either Freeway?

I woke up this morning to find an email sent yesterday (Friday) evening from the Arizona Department of Transportation, regarding the state's "Long Term Transportation Plan Final Report". No biggie, right? Just a discussion about how we plan to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on critical infrastructure projects over the next 25 years. I'm not sure why they chose to send it on a Friday evening, but this Laveen geek couldn't imagine any better Saturday morning reading material. Others may not feel the same way, although I guess we'll see if there's a Sunday morning feature in the Republic tomorrow's Sunday edition, as there ought to be.

Enough about the timing of the report for now. Let's look at what it says. You can find the document here, or I suppose you can trust my brief analysis as follows. First, a few notable sections, as far as Laveen is concerned (you'll have to wait to read about the Hassayampa freeway):

Section 1: Executive Summary (page 1)
In case you don't regularly read professional reports for a living, I'd be remiss to skip over highlighting this section. It may very well include everything you want to know about the following hundred or so pages.

Sections 1.3-1.5: Long-Range Needs, Revenues, and Investment Levels; Gap Analysis (pages 3-9)
This section of the executive summary offers insights about funding constraints and strategic areas of interest for ADOT. For instance, $9.28 billion must stay within Maricopa and Pima counties (mostly Maricopa). The report then notes that tradeoffs are likely, given that we can only count on a small chunk of the funding required to implement all projects envisioned by bqAZ (Building a Quality Arizona) and ADOT's needs assessment.

Section 3.1.1: Goals and Objectives (page 28)
This is a big one. If we want to advocate smartly for the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway, we need to do so in a way that considers these stated goals and objectives. Here's the list:
  1. Improve mobility and accessibility
  2. Preserve and maintain the system 
  3. Support economic growth 
  4. Link transportation and land use 
  5. Consider natural, cultural, and environmental resources 
  6. Enhance safety and security 
  7. Strengthen partnerships 
  8. Promote fiscal stewardship
We can address all of the above quite handily, in my opinion, for the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway. Numbers 1, 3, 4, and 6 seem like the most obvious concerns that the SMF would address, although we can make an argument for all four of the others as well.

Table 3-1: Performance Measures by Plan Goal Area (page 31)
This table helps to illustrate the metrics for the goals listed above, which also lowers the bar for fashioning a report advocating for one particular freeway, such as the SMF.

Section 4.2.3: Highway Needs for “New” Facilities (page 41)
This section outlines the various studies, reports, strategic plans, and other documents used to guide new infrastructure development. Looking for a specific project like the SMF? Keep digging....

Section 5.1.1: Highway Revenues (page 56)
I recommend skimming over the first section about our gas tax and vehicle registration fees and then on to page 58, to read up on the Prop 400 funds available only to Maricopa County transportation projects.  56.2% of these funds were earmarked for highway construction, such as the SMF.

Table 5-6: Baseline Revenue Forecast with Disbursements (page 65)
From what I see here, it looks like MAG has the money it needs for the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway; ADOT has plenty of discretionary funds; and I'm almost certain that some of those federal funds are set aside for the SMF. Do we have enough money yet?

5.3.2: Generating Revenues from Existing Sources (page 68)
In simple terms, this is how government agencies go about making the pie bigger, so that projects like ours don't take as big a piece of the pie. I suppose that the following subsections could be described as adding new flavors to a bigger pie. Interesting stuff.

Section 6. Investment Alternatives and Outcomes (page 71)
I recommend reading through as much of this section as you can stand, as it outlines different strategies for prioritizing ADOT's investment choices. Skip ahead to page 76 for the "Recommended Investment Choice". Most notably, the RIC would significantly reduce the share of funds going to highway expansion, as compared with both of the alternate plans.

Section 7.1: Benefits of Implementation (page 86)
Just thought you'd appreciate the following quote: "In terms of immediate impacts, it is estimated that a billion dollars of transportation infrastructure investment will create over 30,000 new jobs." This is why we need to stay on top of MAG and our city representatives to advocate on behalf of the SMF. We're not just looking for easier travel to shopping and work destinations, but we're looking at an opportunity to bring a huge economic impact to our city and region as a whole. Please also note that this section of the report makes no mention of infrastructure having a direct impact on targeted growth, as the SMF will provide. Therefore, I predict that the SMF will produce a much greater than average economic impact per mile.


Appendix A: Examples of Significant Transportation Infrastructure Projects (page 95)

Here's where the zinger comes in. Not only is this the first and only specific mention of the South Mountain Freeway I found, but what is that other freeway that appears slightly higher on the list..... The Hassayampa Freeway (see, you knew it was going to come up eventually)..... a.k.a. Interstate 11, a.k.a. Canamex Corridor. As I've written in the past, the improvements that follow the otherwise now mostly forgotten Canamex route are a good thing in that they provide a regional bypass for which the Loop 202 is not intended to serve. However, one must also consider that this project will compete for MAG funding, federal funding, and a reminder of what constitutes "smart growth" for the metro Phoenix area. A project like the Hassayampa Freeway will be of much greater interest to large scale land developers than something like the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway, which is more of an infill project, but probably not as interesting to most existing Valley residents. More to come on this one later, but the important message is that you should be concerned.... be very concerned.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Apparently the supporters of I-11 decided to take down their site. But fear not, google has a cached copy: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://interstate11.org/boardofdirectors.aspx