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colin

Toll Roads in Arizona

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There has been renewed talk in the media regarding introducing toll roads to the state, which currently has no toll roads, bridges, tunnels or ferries.

http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/hourlyupdate/211977.php

What's especially interesting to me is that this is a Republican legislator from, of all places, Gilbert who wants this. I thought Republicans were notorious for being anti-toll. At least they are in Austin. And I wouldn't think of Gilbert as the place anyone would want tolls, especially considering that they have a couple of freeways left to build out there.

Possible candidates for toll roads, which would be constructed with private investment financing, could include select new Phoenix metro-area roads such as a highway around South Mountain and bypasses and alternatives to long-distance highways elsewhere in the state, [Representative Andy] Biggs said.

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Governor Napolitano is against toll roads. Maybe that's all the Republicans need to be in favor of them. :D

Freight railroads' tracks in Arizona are already congested with their own trains and likely wouldn't be available for commuter passenger service proposed for the Phoenix area, and buying new rights of way for passenger train tracks would be prohibitively expensive.

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Governor Napolitano is against toll roads. Maybe that's all the Republicans need to be in favor of them. :D

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I think making the counties pay for it will cause its own problems though. Should Pinal have to pay less because of its lower population even though it stands to gain the most from it? Should Maricopa or Pima have to pay more?

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I think construction costs will be more of an issue than operating costs as they'll be pretty minimal in lieu of the former.

I believe the state financed the Rail Runner in Albuquerque, as that goes through several counties.

But do you think that a rail line between the two metros would actually be used for its intended purpose? Or would it mostly be used by commuters into either city?

Or will it really matter in 20 years when, they say, the two cities will be virtually connected, or should it even matter as long as you're taking cars off the road?

BTW, there was a story in the Daily Star yesterday about the state introducing photo radar vans onto the freeways, and it very much alluded to I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson. This is very similar to a program that's been ongoing in Tucson for about a year, where TPD sets up a van and takes pictures of speeders based on radar. The locations are usually around school zones, and each one is actually announced several days in advance on TPD's web site. I don't think they'll be doing this at the state level though.

But, of course, I'm starting my car like twice a week nowadays.

Either way, this could further discourage people from taking I-10. I typically go 80-85 on that stretch and am still passed by most, including some semi-trucks. But I would avoid it even more than I do now if I knew that I had to go exactly 75.

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I know some people travel between the two metro areas, but first it should be considered within the counties and expanded later. We need commuter to hook up with ligh rail and that will make it more succesful I think for those who live further out.

Interesting info from smart growth america about toll roads.

link:

http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/narsgareport2007.html

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I took the Megabus from Los Angeles to Phoenix last week Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. Traffic leaving Los Angeles was so bad, we were in stop-and-go traffic for three hours from our start time of 3:30pm before the road finally freed up. And the HOV lane wasn't any faster than the regular lanes. As a result, the bus was late getting into Phoenix, the first time it's been late out of 10 times I've ridden on the Megabus.

Although this was Los Angeles, this kind of congestion may also be in Phoenix's future. If the HOV lane were instead a toll lane, especially if the toll charge were higher during rush hour, we might have had less trouble getting out of the city. So I think this is a good case for toll lanes.

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I've had good luck with the HOV lanes in the LA area, personally, but have very limited experience.

But you're absolutely right: the Valley is quickly turning into LA. I've always thought that it was somewhat of a conscious transition though by the California migrants.

Do you think that it would be better if the lanes were separated by barriers and had controlled access?

Houston's adding toll/HOV lanes on the Katy Freeway (I-10 West) now during its reconstruction. I think that the lanes are going to be open for 2+ (maybe 3+, which is what a few of the HOV lanes there have now) or anyone willing to pay the toll. If that's the case though, wouldn't it just fill up again?

The original idea with that freeway was to use the middle area, now being used for these lanes, for a light rail track to go way out into the suburbs. As a compromise, they've allotted an area for lanes with the option of "future" light rail use, which will probably not happen for many, many years. But I think that had to do with the influence of the anti-public-transit, now-disgraced, local congressman, Tom Delay.

I still stick to the idea that public transit is a good, although not immediate, solution to the problem. It takes not only a commuter rail servicing the outlying suburbs, but also a good bus system that runs on-time and frequently to the major employment centers and a free bus system in the central area, to really make the multi-modal commuter system work.

You just have to cut off the freeway construction at some point. Develop your infrastructure, sure, but don't keep expanding lanes to facilitate more suburban sprawl.

Looking at other cities, I think that Austin is especially poised to become like this once the light rail is completed. The bus system there is already good, at least compared with most systems on the West Coast, but it could be really good.

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Houston's adding toll/HOV lanes on the Katy Freeway (I-10 West) now during its reconstruction. I think that the lanes are going to be open for 2+ (maybe 3+, which is what a few of the HOV lanes there have now) or anyone willing to pay the toll. If that's the case though, wouldn't it just fill up again?

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Not quite a toll road (although I can see it being one), but the I-10 Tucson bypass has been on the table from ADOT recently, and Avra Valley residents, who were shunned at the last meeting and told that public comments were not allowed, got their chance at this past public meeting.

Avra Valley to ADOT: No way on highway

The San Pedro Valley to the east that the article mentions is probably a worse spot than this to build the bypass, because it contains an endangered river and riparian area. The Sandario corridor through Avra Valley though is the western edge of Saguaro National Park, Ironwood Forest National Monument and Tucson Mountain Park. Do we really want to put a freeway right next to all of those places?

Also, I think that, if you build it that close to Tucson, it's just going to jam up again with suburban traffic. My idea is to put it running along US 191 to Safford, then west along US 60. How to get through the Superstations then? I don't know.

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That's a big detour. I prefer 60 through the Superstitions over I-10, but only when there's not much traffic on it.

Yes, I-10 through town is being widened right now to 4 lanes each way. To "speed up" the process, ADOT's closed all of the exits in the city for three years.

Fun?? Hell yeah! It was especially fun during El Tour de Tucson this month when the traffic backed up for over a mile from Congress on the northbound side. Luckily, I was on Congress. But it remains to be seen how this effects the gem show.

Granted though, the traffic on the mainlanes actually flows quite nicely now when it used to back every morning and afternoon.

The whole "express" thing is a great idea, but what do you do about services? I supposed that they could set up service plazas like they have in other countries and, I think, on some of the toll roads on the East Coast.

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I've had good luck with the HOV lanes in the LA area, personally, but have very limited experience.

But you're absolutely right: the Valley is quickly turning into LA. I've always thought that it was somewhat of a conscious transition though by the California migrants.

Do you think that it would be better if the lanes were separated by barriers and had controlled access?

Houston's adding toll/HOV lanes on the Katy Freeway (I-10 West) now during its reconstruction. I think that the lanes are going to be open for 2+ (maybe 3+, which is what a few of the HOV lanes there have now) or anyone willing to pay the toll. If that's the case though, wouldn't it just fill up again?

The original idea with that freeway was to use the middle area, now being used for these lanes, for a light rail track to go way out into the suburbs. As a compromise, they've allotted an area for lanes with the option of "future" light rail use, which will probably not happen for many, many years. But I think that had to do with the influence of the anti-public-transit, now-disgraced, local congressman, Tom Delay.

I still stick to the idea that public transit is a good, although not immediate, solution to the problem. It takes not only a commuter rail servicing the outlying suburbs, but also a good bus system that runs on-time and frequently to the major employment centers and a free bus system in the central area, to really make the multi-modal commuter system work.

You just have to cut off the freeway construction at some point. Develop your infrastructure, sure, but don't keep expanding lanes to facilitate more suburban sprawl.

Looking at other cities, I think that Austin is especially poised to become like this once the light rail is completed. The bus system there is already good, at least compared with most systems on the West Coast, but it could be really good.

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Arizona is deffently behind times, but is better off than some cities. Since the phoenix area is considered a late bloomer considered other big cities, it has had its lumps.

The history of the area is very interesting. Phoenix use to have a trolly system that worked well. Some even took a train to get to phoenix back in the day. After that, the people were anti freeway because they did not want explosive growth. Then in 85 the life cycle freeway program was approved (the loops and so forth). I-10 did not connect until the 70's. Now the valley has grown so fast, that we can't build enough roads and so forth due to the pattern of growth. Many think the rail system is a huge waste of tax dollars. If you look at it, the largest misallocating of taxpayers dollars has been into this idea of what has been painted as the American dream. (sprawl) The cost and subsidize of roads and infrastructure and natural resources totally outweighs anything rail has been criticized for.

If you read some economist reports on light rail, they will only look at what is being subsidize such as fairs and so forth. They do not look at what effect this does to the cost of our roads, reinvestment in our inner areas, cost to tax payers in the long run, sales tax and other private sector improvements. Transportation is at its best when there is more choices, a choice of housing, density and so forth. Roads will not go away. We need to be smarter with our roads to make the more efficient, smart, encourage more carpooling and so forth. We need them, but we need a bus, light rail, commuter rail, pedestrian friendly streets and bike lanes and trails for people to get around the best way. You have to create natural connections, and we have them, and they are being underutilized at this time.

The rail road companies is what is slowing us down on creating a successful transportation network in the next 5-10 years. They are very protective of there property. Time will tell how this valley and state will progress. Toll roads in my opinion should be only considered outside of the current freeway system. For example, if you a new freeway comes, it should be toll. We can't keep paying and maintaining for this out of our pockets.

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Isn't "The Economist" written by mostly fiscal conservatives (or, "physical conservative," as former gubernatorial candidate, Mike Harris referred to himself on several occasions)? Of course those people are going to claim that, if pubic transit can't pay for itself, then it's not worth supporting. Public transit is too often seen as burden and not the social service that it really is.

I've been riding the bus on my commute here in Tucson for a good 5 months now and am still pretty happy with it. It takes longer than if I would drive, sure, but it actually takes less time than if I would park for free outside of Downtown and walk in, therein also risking my car getting broken into (or getting mugged). The money I pay to ride the bus is so minimal too since my employer subsidizes the bus pass. I try to talk others into riding the bus, but most are hesitant, with the typical stigmas about public transit: scary, dangerous, only for the poor, slow, etc. Whatever.

But LA is really the model for the ultimate blunder in the destruction of a wonderful transit system. They tore up all of their trolley lines and, by the '60's or '70's, nothing was left but an inadequate bus system and a concrete jungle that destroyed neighborhoods and has turned into the mess it is today.

Both Phoenix and Tucson had strong grassroots to defeat the same sort of freeway building spree that other metros engaged in in the 1960's and '70's. But, I've also heard from those who lived in Phoenix in the '70's and '80's, and they recall the mess that resulted from the lack of freeway infrastructure and relying on surface roads to get into the urban core. Frustrating, I'm sure.

I'm curious though: would Phoenix have grown even nearly as considerably as it has had the freeways not been built? Is it solid proof of the build-a-highway-encourage-sprawl scenario?

But past experience shouldn't necessarily dictate the future of public transit. Tucson had a trolley in the early 20th century as well, but it always struggled. The trolley we have now is just a tourist attraction, and not really intended as a viable form of public transit, especially since you could walk its route in about the same amount of time. I'm still very supportive of the city's efforts to bring some sort of tram service in though.

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