Your E-News Update From the Transportation Policy Committee (TPC) - September 19, 2012
Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane, City of Scottsdale, Chair
September 19, 2012, Meeting Summary
Message From the Chair
During our September meeting we had the opportunity to hear updates on several studies that provide important guidance for our long-range transportation planning. We discussed a number of major projects that are in the current Regional Transportation Plan that are critical to our region’s economy, including the I-10, I-17 and South Mountain freeway corridors. We heard how the area around the Durango curve, which connects I-10 to I-17, is a critically important transportation spine and how that segment could be improved under the current plan to relieve congestion and improve mobility. Options to improve the I-10 bottleneck around the Broadway curve were also discussed. And we heard a presentation from ADOT on a rail study that looks for multimodal solutions for connecting Phoenix and Tucson.
As we think about our transportation future, we must ask ourselves how aggressive we need to be in securing funding now in order to meet our needs in the years ahead. It is clear that we will need additional revenues in order to make the types of improvements needed for a state-of-the-art transportation system. I believe that some of these needs could be handled through creative financing mechanisms such as “design-build” financing. Under this method, private interests advance the money for construction now, the projects are built early during a market in which construction costs are low, saving taxpayers money, and the loans are paid back with interest in the year the project was originally programmed, benefitting all involved.
TPC Meeting Summary
Rebalancing of the Arterial Life Cycle Program
The TPC recommended approval of the Draft Fiscal Year 2013 Arterial Life Cycle Program, which includes a number of adjustments to allow for a decline in revenues. Staff reported that revenues have fallen 30 percent since the Regional Transportation Plan was developed, resulting in a $40 million deficit. Under the Plan, 94 arterial street projects were identified to receive funding during the plan’s 20-year life cycle. A number of solutions for rebalancing the plan were studied, with a final recommendation including a policy exception that eliminates bonding and adjustments for inflation on reimbursements that allows the draft program to be in balance. The TPC recommended approval with the caveat that the change is being made as a one-time, non-precedent-setting approval in order to achieve fiscal balance, and that the program policies remain unchanged.
Southeast Corridor Major Investment Study
The TPC received an update on the Southeast Major Investment Study, which was conducted to review all transportation investments proposed to date for the corridor, to study the travel demand between Central Phoenix and the Southeast Valley, and to identify strategies to accommodate the demand. The study was conceptualized during the course of developing the Environmental Impact Statement for the Interstate 10/Maricopa Freeway, when questions were raised by MAG member agencies about the improvements that were being considered for the corridor and the potential need for other transportation options. The current Regional Transportation Plan provides about $650 million for improvements along the entire corridor.
A consultant developed, studied, and analyzed three bundles of more than 25 different transportation alternatives to accommodate the travel demand in the Southeast Corridor area that reaches from downtown Phoenix to downtown Chandler. The recommended bundle of improvements included a “managed lanes” concept along I-10 and I-17, including direct HOV connections between freeways. Managed lanes refer to lanes that are dedicated for one or more user groups, such as carpoolers or perhaps single occupancy vehicles in which solo drivers pay a fee to be in the lane. Proactively managing lanes provide better reliability in travel time savings. The recommended bundle also included strategically focused exclusive guideway transit and modern streetcar extensions.
Update on I-10, I-17 Studies
An update was provided regarding Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) studies for sections of I-10 and I-17.
Studies for capacity expansion of I-10 between the “ministack” at State Route 51/Loop 202 and the Pecos Stack/Loop 202 interchange, and on I-17 between the I-10 split and Loop 101, have been underway for years. These sections of I-10 and I-17 are located in a heavily congested area of the metropolitan region. Staff reported that since the time that the studies were initiated, a number of factors have changed, including the economic situation, while the projects being studied substantially exceeded available resources by as much as four billion dollars. In addition, recent changes in airspace regulations at Sky Harbor International Airport and other studies by MAG for the Southeast Corridor and a managed lanes network resulted in a decision to suspend both studies.
Staff reported that one option that is being considered is to study the I-17/I-10 spine that stretches from the I-17/Loop 101 “north stack” to the Loop 202 “Pecos Stack” as one corridor rather than as two separate corridors. The section of I-17 around the Durango Curve is at the end of its service life and could be significantly improved to add capacity to the system, rather than directing more traffic through the I-10 tunnel. Staff noted that this “spine” is the backbone of the regional transportation system and that a master plan is needed for the spine, as well as the identification of interim spot improvements. Other staff recommendations included determining manageable environmental study segments and considering alternative project delivery methods and congestion pricing.
ADOT Passenger Rail Corridor Study Update
A representative from the Arizona Department of Transportation provided information regarding a passenger rail corridor study from Tucson to Phoenix. The study was an outgrowth of the Building a Quality Arizona (BQAZ) visioning process for the state to have a more multimodal transportation system. The representative stated that one of the recommendations of the state rail plan was to have an intercity rail spine extending from Northern Arizona to the Mexican border, with the most critical segment being from Tucson to Phoenix. The study area included Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties.
Three products will come from the study: an alternatives analysis, an environmental impact statement, and a service development plan. The process is currently at the alternatives analysis phase. The alternatives analysis will result in a locally preferred alternative, which will lead to a locally preferred alternative and a record of decision.
A number of potential modes were examined in the study. Express bus between Tucson and Phoenix is still a consideration, along with a system that blends commuter rail and intercity rail. Light rail is not being considered except as a connector to the system, and high speed rail has also been ruled out as a mode between Tucson and Phoenix. It was noted that this does not preclude that technology from the recommended plan in case there are future connections to places like Las Vegas or Los Angeles.
Staff reported that the study was proceeding under the primary theme that connecting downtown Phoenix to downtown Tucson with passenger rail is a priority. He said that the notion of passengers taking rail from Tucson to Tempe and then transferring to light rail to continue on to Phoenix was not appealing to stakeholders. The second theme is system connectivity and that all alternatives assume commuter rail extensions to Buckeye and Surprise and a high capacity transit connection to Tucson International Airport.
The study is moving forward with seven conceptual alternatives: one bus alternative on Interstate 10 and six rail alternatives. Rail alternatives include sharing the right-of-way with the Union Pacific Railroad from Tucson to Phoenix; two non-Union Pacific Railroad alternatives to follow Interstate 10 from Tucson to Phoenix and a combination route along Interstate 10 and US-60; and three combination alternatives using existing transportation corridors, such as Interstate 10, with Union Pacific Railroad along the Southeast Branch, the Tempe Branch, and the Chandler Branch.
Future Meetings and Events
Transportation Policy Committee
12:00 PM, Wednesday, October 17, 2012, MAG Offices, Second Floor, Saguaro Room
11:30 AM, Wednesday, October 24, 2012, MAG Offices, Second Floor, Saguaro Room
MAG Information Booth, Arizona State Fair
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Saturday, October 27, and Sunday, October 28, 2012, Arizona State Fairgrounds, 19th Avenue & McDowell, Phoenix
The MAG Offices are located at 302 N.1st Avenue, Phoenix. Meeting rooms are on the second floor. All meetings are subject to change.
Let's Keep Moving E-Update is a monthly electronic newsletter providing information about the Transportation Policy Committee and the implementation of the Regional Transportation Plan. For questions regarding this publication, contact Kelly Taft at (602) 254-6300, or via e-mail at this link.