High Costs Likely to Delay Arizona Highway Projects

Thu September 06, 2007 - West Edition
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PHOENIX (AP) — The high cost of concrete and asphalt could mean a major road block in Maricopa County’s drive to build transportation projects planned for the next five years.

Faced with a potential $110 million shortfall, transportation planners may have to slow down or scale back work on six key projects, Maricopa County Department of Transportation authorities said.

Officials would not say what funding options they are exploring until they have a chance to talk with the county Board of Supervisors.

The six projects include road widenings and new arterial streets in the West, North and East side, all high-growth areas. They do not include Arizona Department of Transportation freeway construction.

The price of the six projects have almost doubled in just the past year.

Planners say the shortfall is because of rapidly rising costs, not declining revenues.

A severe shortage of road-building materials is blamed mostly on construction booms in the Phoenix area and in China, where they are building venues for the 2008 Olympics, said Eric Anderson, transportation director for the Maricopa Association of Governments, the planning agency for the county.

Twenty additional county road projects planned over the next five years also could be delayed, officials said, but they are on much smaller scales, such as installing traffic lights and widening smaller roads. County transportation officials don’t yet know which of the big projects will be delayed because of funding.

The county’s plans are mostly funded by the state Highway User Revenue Fund, collected from transportation-related taxes, such gasoline taxes and vehicle registrations. The state collects it, then divvies it up among the state highway fund and local jurisdictions.

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