After decades of underfunding and neglect, Arizona’s poor roads and bridges are hitting drivers where it hurts: their wallets.
According to a recent White House report, Arizona drivers spent an average of “$614 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair.” This is one hidden price of car travel in Arizona for both recreational drivers and commercial truckers. For decades, Arizonans have seen roadways and bridges deteriorate. People have also seen commute times in Arizona increasing by 11% in the past 10 years, and can expect to visit the repair shop more often – and pay a steeper bill.
The consequences of Arizona’s underinvestment in infrastructure are not surprising. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave Arizona a “C-grade on its infrastructure report card,” according to their 2020 report. Commuters, rural drivers, tourists, and supply chains alike all depend on Arizona’s roads and bridges, and neglecting repairs and maintenance only proves to worsen driving conditions.
Arizonans have a reason to feel optimism, however. President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, despite some lengthy debate in the Senate and House, has been signed into law, and will deliver “$5 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $225 million for bridge replacement and repairs” for our state. The Arizona Department of Transportation plans to use the allotted $5 billion to repair 132 bridges and more than 3,100 miles of highway in poor condition. US Senator Mark Kelly has expressed interest in investing in paving roads on Navajo Nation and widening Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson.
The bill also includes “$884 million over five years… to improve public transportation options across the state” and “$38 million over five years to protect against wildfires,” both of which are necessary steps to reduce individual car use and prepare for the worsening effects of climate change. Valley Metro in the Phoenix area is expected to receive $500 million, $118 million for SunTran in Tucson, and YCAT in Yuma will receive $21 million. Meanwhile, funds for wildfire mitigation will be used for clearing buffer zones around forested communities like Payson and Show Low and thinning projects to restore forest health.
Opponents have claimed that these investments are too expensive, but the costs of inaction are too severe. From 2010 to 2020 alone, extreme weather events have cost Arizona “up to $10 billion in damages.” The Infrastructure bill includes funds that will help Arizonans “repair and rebuild our roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users.” Reinvesting in the state’s roads and bridges now is key to protect Arizonans from further environmental damages.
Many drivers knew Arizona’s infrastructure had long been due for an overhaul. “This is a big deal for Arizona,” said Senator Kelly in a statement. “This bipartisan infrastructure legislation will bring high-paying jobs to Arizona, fix our roads and bridges… make Arizona more resilient to wildfires… These investments are long overdue.”