Highway Robbery? Toll Roads Coming to Arizona


There are few things in life more wilting than a blast of 115-degree air, like the one we get when we open the car window in mid-July. Now, thanks to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Phoenicians will get to experience that little joy far more frequently.


Monday, as part of bill-signapolooza '09, when the governor signed or vetoed more than 200 bills, Brewer enacted one that will allow the creation of toll roads in Arizona, which would force drivers to open their windows, endure a blast of hot desert air, and actually pay cash to use certain highways.

The plan is an effort by the state to generate revenue and help ease the daily commute by basically saying to drivers: "Look, this really sucks, we know. Why not take the bus?"

"This isn't going to solve all of your problems," Leonard Gilroy, director of government reform for the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles think tank, told The Arizona Republic in February of 2008. "It's going to apply to a slice of your transportation needs, largely in urban areas where you've got a lot of growth."

The plan would allow the state to lease the toll roads to private companies that advocates of the plan say can build roads faster than the government. The private companies would maintain the soon-to-be high-priced highways, which in theory would actually turn a profit, something government-,un roads typically don't do. Imagine that; private business doing things more efficiently than the government.

In 2006, the state of Indiana, while facing a $1.8-billion highway production shortage, used a similar system to solve its commuter crisis and leased a toll road to an Australian company for $3.8 billion. While financially it made sense, the plan came with mixed reviews from an irritated public.

If the citizens of Indiana were mad, just wait until the traffic-burdened motorists of Phoenix weigh in about longer-than-usual commutes that they now have to pay for. Yikes!

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
James King
Contact: James King