Joint Planning Advisory Council hosts transportation summit

(Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Elected officials, regional planning agencies and business leaders gathered Tuesday, Dec. 11 for the Sun Corridor Transportation Summit, which the Joint Planning Advisory Council hosted, to discuss transportation and how to improve it in the state.

The JPAC is an organization aimed at “jointly coordinating planning efforts for the greater good of the participating regions and the state of Arizona,” the group’s website states.

It works with the Maricopa Association of Governments, the Pima Association of Governments, the Central Arizona Governments, the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Sun Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Businesses from around the state shared their own stories on why transportation is critical, according to a press release.

“We contribute $2.1 billion in growth to the economy every year. We are the largest private employer in Southern Arizona, with 13,000 employees,” Tim Beer, director of logistics and property for Raytheon Missile Systems, said in a prepared statement.

“Good roadways and ease of access are very important to our employee morale and for attracting new employers.”

Mr. Beer noted the Tucson employer ships in thousands of items every day, completes them and ships them out again.

“It is vital that we have transportation means and infrastructure,” he said.

Much of the nation’s transportation infrastructure is 80-100 years old, Edward Mortimer, vice president of transportation and infrastructure with the US Chamber of Commerce, claimed.

He told the diverse mix of legislative leaders and mayors that transportation is important — regardless of political affiliation.

“Infrastructure is bipartisan,” Mr. Mortimer said in a prepared statement.

“It should bring every American together. Infrastructure to the business community is the backbone of the economy. If you can’t move people and goods to market, you won’t succeed.”

Mr. Mortimer noted that D+ is the current grade of America’s infrastructure and it would take $3.7 trillion by 2025 to raise it to a B, a release states. He discussed the Chamber’s four-point infrastructure plan, including surface transportation, critical infrastructure, permit streamlining, and workforce.

The funding outlook in Arizona is perhaps even more grim — Eric Anderson, executive director of the Maricopa Association of Governments, claimed.

While revenues continue to fall due to increasing fuel economy, rising construction prices, and workforce shortages—population, congestion and maintenance backlogs increase. Anderson noted that the gas tax has been at 18 cents a gallon since 1991.

“Imagine starting your business three decades ago and never changing your prices, even though it costs twice as much to stock your shelves,” Mr. Anderson said in a prepared statement.

The gas tax for a driver of a 2018 Honda Civic, the best-selling car now, effectively pays 70 percent less than the driver of a 1991 Ford Taurus, the best selling car then, a release claims.

While raising the gas tax and/or indexing it to inflation is one possible solution, Mr. Anderson provided a table of 15 other potential revenue sources.

He said he hoped elected leaders took to heart the theme of the summit: “We can’t sit idle.” He asked lawmakers to consider their own ideas for funding transportation.

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