Last weekend I finally sat down and did my taxes. I wrote a check to the IRS and expect to receive a check back from the State of Arizona. Like most people, I pay my taxes, but I don’t like it. It’s probably because I don’t like the way the government spends the money. They don’t spend money on the things that I would spend it on. But that is the way it works. We rely on our elected representatives to make those decisions. We can work to influence those decisions, but for the most part it is out of our hands and it is difficult to know just how tax revenues are used. However, there are some special purpose taxes that do directly fund specific programs. The Highway Users Revenue Fund (HURF) tax is one example.
The Highway Users Revenue Fund is funded, in part, by an $0.18 per gallon tax on gasoline.
The State of Arizona taxes motor fuels and imposes various other fees related to the registration and operation of motor vehicles. Included are motor vehicle fuel taxes, use fuel taxes, vehicle license taxes, motor carrier fees, vehicle registration fees, and various other miscellaneous fees. Depending on the category, all, or a portion of these taxes and fees are distributed to the Arizona Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF).
HURF revenues are a major source of funding to the state for highway construction, highway maintenance and improvements, and other highway-related expenditures, A portion of HURF revenue is also distributed to Arizona cities, towns, and counties for highway-related purposes.
Source: State of Arizona 2013 Tax Handbook prepared by the Staff of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.
This is a tax I can better understand and support. The problem is this tax is too low (I never thought I would say such a thing). The Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax (gas tax) is based on the number of gallons of gas sold – not the price of gas. The gas tax rate has not increased since 1990 and the annual revenues generated have been virtually the same for the last ten years (approximately $450 million per year).
HURF Funding and Growth
HURF money is distributed between the State of Arizona, counties and cities. For many cities and towns, HURF money is the primary revenue to operate, maintain and repair roadways, traffic signals, streetlights, and traffic signs. Our roadway system has grown substantially over the last 20 years. For example, 20 years ago the City of Peoria’s population was less than 60,000 people and the City’s north boundary was Beardsley Road. Peoria’s current population is over 160,000 and the City extends north past Carefree Highway to the Yavapai County Line. The pattern of growth across the State is the same. Yet, HURF funding has not kept pace with growth.
Most communities have pavement management programs. These programs are intended to be a systematic way to prioritize how available pavement preservation funding should be used. Ideally, we would make modest investments in preventative maintenance to maximize the useful life of our roads (sort of like changing the oil and rotating the tires on your car). However, more and more, our decision making process feels more like triage and less like prioritization. We spend our limited resources on roadways which have a remaining life and are forced to ignore roadways which are failing. When asked how we are doing with our pavement program, I typically respond that we are doing better than most. This is an unsatisfactory standard when you consider that others are doing almost nothing at all.
Support Funding to Preserve Investments
We have invested substantial resources to build infrastructure to serve our communities. We must be willing to preserve our investments and pay for the on-going operational and maintenance needs. We expect and deserve safe, well-maintained streets and we should be willing to pay for them.
No one likes taxes, but we must decide what is most important for our communities and be willing to contribute our fair share.
William (Bill) Mattingly, P.E., R.L.S ARIZONA CHAPTER PRESIDENT
Special Event Traffic Management – Meeting the Challenge
Arizona is home to a number of special events every year including professional football, baseball, hockey, and basketball games; major league soccer games; concerts; spring training; NASCAR races; marathons; 4th of July celebrations; and many other events attended by large numbers of people. A key component to making these events successful is effective traffic management. In this article two Arizona agencies, the City of Glendale (Glendale), and Maricopa County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) weigh in on their special event traffic management strategies. Chris Lemka, PE, Principal Traffic Engineer with Glendale, will discuss current planning for Super Bowl XLIX to be held at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015, and John Counts, Traffic Studies/Special Events Manager with MCDOT outlines how his team plans for two major NASCAR races held annually, in March and November, at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR).
At the National Football League (NFL) Fall Owner’s Meeting in Houston on October 11, 2011 it was announced that the University of Phoenix Stadium would be the location for Super Bowl XLIX. Having already hosted Super Bowl XLII in 2008, Glendale will be ready for the challenge. University of Phoenix Stadium opened on August 1, 2006, and Glendale has been providing traffic management for NFL games and the annual Fiesta Bowl ever since. Over time, Glendale has streamlined their approach to traffic management, which they now have down to a science. Chris stated that the 2008 Super Bowl taught the city a lot about how to deal with traffic in the vicinity of the stadium. During that event they utilized more lanes for egress (exiting) than ever before. Since opening the stadium, Glendale has reduced the number of field staff required for games from 10 – 12 to three, the number of staff required at the Traffic Management Center (TMC) from two – three to one, and the police department has been able to reduce the number of police officers needed for traffic control. Currently police officers are only required at major intersections. Secondary intersections are now controlled by signals, through staff at the TMC.
So, what is the biggest difference in traffic planning and management for the Super Bowl as compared to a regular season NFL game? The biggest difference is that a majority of Super Bowl patrons are out of town visitors, so this also adds to the traffic challenges during the event. Regular season NFL games are mostly attended by local fans, so fans understand where to go, what exits to take from SR 101, etc. In contrast, patrons for the Super Bowl are most likely visiting University of Phoenix Stadium for the first time. In addition, the Super Bowl requires a much larger security “clear zone” which significantly reduces the number of parking spaces close to the stadium. Another major difference includes the number of buses, taxis, and limousines which increase dramatically for the Super Bowl. Due to the high demand for these transportation alternatives, the traffic management plan must be prepared to increase staging capacity for these vehicles to accommodate about 100 taxis, 1,600 limousines, and 1,000 buses while a regular season NFL game may have about 70 staged vehicles all together. Because of the high volume, taxis cannot be accommodated directly outside of the stadium and additional events in the area mean more local traffic and parking as well.
In order to make the traffic management process highly effective, Glendale will utilize a number of techniques to make the process run as smoothly as possible. First, electronic signage will be located throughout the area to guide visitors to the stadium. The seven permanent Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) message boards in the vicinity of the stadium will be augmented with a large number of temporary signs as well to provide directional data and create flexibility in addressing traffic management needs. Glendale also utilizes the AZ511 system, which is run by ADOT. This service allows visitors to go online or call 5-1-1 from any phone anywhere in Arizona to obtain traffic and parking information throughout major events. New to the stadium district for the 2015 game is the recently opened SR 101 Maryland HOV ramps which will serve as one of the primary routes for ingress (arriving) traffic exiting the freeway for the event. Additional parking will be available in the vicinity of the stadium and ticket holders will have maps on the backs of their tickets to direct them to parking. Finally, an event the size of a Super Bowl calls for a significant number of additional field personnel and police officers on site in order to provide on-the-spot adjustments to the traffic plan, if needed. Feedback from the NFL on the 2008 Super Bowl was that it was one of the most organized and effective with regard to traffic planning and management.
Another special event that requires extensive traffic management planning is the bi-annual NASCAR race at PIR in Avondale, Arizona. These races take place annually, in March and November, Friday through Sunday, with the main event on Sunday attracting over 80,000 fans from throughout the US. The traffic management for these events is handled by MCDOT because most of the roadways surrounding PIR are county roads. The traffic management for this event requires coordination with a number of stakeholder organizations including PIR, MCDOT, ADOT, Department of Public Service (DPS), City of Goodyear, Maricopa County Sheriff, City of Avondale, and Trafficade (the company that sets up and provides the traffic management services).
One of the biggest challenges for the NASCAR races is the location of PIR which can only be accessed from four north-south routes (Avondale, El Mirage, Litchfield to Bullard, and Estrella Parkway), and one east-west road (Indian Springs). Also, similar to the Super Bowl, approximately 85% of the NASCAR fans are visitors and are not familiar with the location and parking situation. Other special events in the area such as NFL football games, spring training, and events at the Avondale Sports Center can also add to the traffic challenges for the NASCAR events.
The key to successful traffic circulation, like in Glendale, is to have a strong traffic management plan in place that is based upon past “lessons learned.” Approximately two to three weeks prior to the event, MCDOT meets with the stakeholder team to go over the plan. The key to minimizing delays, conflicts, and safety hazards is to make the process run as smooth as possible. To do this MCDOT’s plan provides seven vehicle and one bus inbound and outbound lanes during the event with the capacity of 900 vehicles per hour per lane. Usually, ingress traffic is not too bad because some fans camp at PIR up to two weeks prior to the event, and others begin arriving by 6 a.m. and continue to arrive throughout the day. On the other hand, once the event is over, everyone leaves at once and this is when the plan is really needed. After the main race on Sunday, the eastbound I-10/Avondale exit is closed from 4 – 8 p.m. to allow free flow traffic onto I-10 from PIR which really helps with traffic flow. Setting up the traffic control for the event requires 60 people.
Electronic message signs direct race traffic on I-10 from Seventh Street in downtown Phoenix to the event and southbound on SR101. Twenty-eight portable message boards are also staged throughout the area to direct traffic. MCDOT also utilizes AZ 511 for event traffic information. A number of messages are recorded prior to the event that can be utilized as needed. “Real time” messages are also recorded during the event to report an accident or other traffic impairment and suggest alternative routes.
The weather is also a factor in planning for NASCAR events. Since PIR is located near the confluence of the Gila, Agua Fria, and Salt Rivers, a significant amount of rainfall can cause the closure of El Mirage Road. If this happens, new routes for Park-and-Ride buses from Ak Chin Pavilion, which transport passengers from up to 4,000 vehicles, must be created. This can increase the egress time significantly.
According to John, traffic management has improved dramatically since he started working the events in 1991. He said that it used to take 6 – 7 hours to empty the parking lot, but now they are able to do it in 2 hours. When asked what he wished the public knew about traffic management at the event John replied “I wish the public knew how limited the access is to such a large venue.” He said that if they did, they might understand the inherent traffic challenges and have a little more patience.
Article submitted by Laura Turiano, David Evans and Associates.
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