PHOENIX (December 14, 2018)—Nothing moves without transportation. Without it, we couldn’t buy gas or groceries. We couldn’t run a business. We couldn’t access medical or emergency services. We couldn’t get to work at the beginning of the day, or home to loved ones at the end of it. Transportation is key to economic development—and a good economy is key to the well-being of families and communities. So why do we let funding for our streets and highways decline every year?

That was a key question at the Sun Corridor Transportation Summit hosted by the Joint Planning Advisory Council Tuesday. Participants included state and local elected officials, regional planning agencies, and business leaders. Businesses from around the state shared their own stories on why transportation is critical.

“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,” said Tim Beer, director of logistics and property for Raytheon Missile Systems. “Good roadways and ease of access are very important to our employee morale and for attracting new employers.” 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 to 100 years old, said Edward Mortimer, vice president of transportation and infrastructure with the US Chamber of Commerce. He told the diverse mix of legislative leaders and mayors that transportation is important—no matter which side of the aisle you are on.

“Infrastructure is bipartisan. 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,” said Mortimer. 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. He discussed the Chamber’s 4-point infrastructure plan, including surface transportation, critical infrastructure, permit streamlining, and workforce.

The funding outlook in Arizona is perhaps even more grim, reported Eric Anderson, executive director of the Maricopa Association of Governments. 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,” said Anderson. The gas tax paid by the driver of 2018 Honda Civic, the best selling car today, effectively pays 70 percent less than the driver of a 1991 Ford Taurus, the best selling car then.

While raising the gas tax and/or indexing it to inflation is one possible solution, 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. Anderson’s detailed presentation can be found on the Joint Planning Advisory Council website.

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