October 17, 2018
Mayor Jenn Daniels, Gilbert
October 17, 2018, Meeting Summary
How we allocate and monitor limited transportation funding was a key topic of discussion at our October meeting. We heard about the rising costs for freeway projects currently in the Regional Transportation Plan, due to a wide variety of factors. A booming economy is always good news, but higher prices for construction materials and a shortage of skilled labor are driving up construction bids and changing prior estimates.
An ongoing detailed analysis by MAG and the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) revealed many other reasons for the rise in project costs, such as changes in the way we estimate right of way costs, scope of work changes due to stricter ADA requirements, and project budgets not adjusted for inflation. More specific information on which projects need more funds will be provided at the November meeting, but there is no doubt that some tough decisions will have to be made.
For every project that needs additional funding, others may have to be scaled back or even eliminated. The region’s main transportation funding source, the half-cent sales tax extension provided for in Proposition 400, is a finite resource. We must be vigilant in managing these limited budgets and come together to determine what is best for the region as a whole. I am confident our members will do so.
Mayor Jenn Daniels
Members of the TPC recommended approval of a major amendment to delete from the Regional Transportation Plan (Plan) a future light rail extension to Glendale. This light rail extension, included in the 2003-adopted Plan, was envisioned to extend west from 19th Avenue to downtown Glendale. In December 2017, the Glendale City Council voted to discontinue participation in the West Phoenix/Central Glendale project and requested that the Plan reflect that decision. As prescribed by Arizona statute, a major amendment to the Plan is required to satisfy such a request.
The project is funded through federal, regional and local sources. Valley Metro’s FY 2019 Transit Life Cycle Program has moved Glendale’s portion of Proposition 400 funding previously allocated to this project, approximately $51 million, to the program’s fund balance.
Consultation with the Regional Public Transportation Authority (Valley Metro RPTA), Arizona State Transportation Board, and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has taken place as required by state statute. The proposed major amendment was considered by all three boards and received unanimous support. The 30-day consultation process also invited Native American Indian communities, cities, towns, and the public to submit comments or recommendations. No comments were received during that time. The major Plan amendment now moves to the Regional Council for approval, contingent upon a finding of air quality conformity anticipated in December 2018.
TPC members heard a status report on the Freeway Life Cycle Program (FLCP), which represents the management tool for the freeway component of the Regional Transportation Plan (Plan). The MAG Regional Council approved the rebalancing of the FLCP in September 2017. There are 35 projects still to be completed under Proposition 400, the half-cent sales tax for transportation funding.
Three material cost change actions were taken through the committee process in the last fiscal year. In April 2018, MAG and the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) initiated a thorough review of the FLCP program. While the analysis is ongoing, an initial review indicates that project costs are rising. Factors driving the cost increases are right of way cost increases, increases in scope, and market conditions.
MAG and ADOT expect the program analysis to conclude by January 2019. MAG is working with ADOT’s new management consultant to review estimated construction costs and further vet right of way increases.
It is anticipated that changes will need to be made to the program, including schedule changes, reductions in scope, and project deferments outside of the funded Proposition 400 program. A request for additional funding for three of the four projects scheduled to go to construction in Fiscal Year 2019 will be presented to the committee. More detailed information on those projects will be brought to the committee in November 2018 for possible action to recommend added funding.
Staff provided an update on the Road Safety Assessment program, a regional initiative to help identify and address safety issues at intersections and corridors.
A Road Safety Assessment (RSA) is a 10-week analysis of safety performance by an independent team, which includes a human factors expert. Since 2011, about 70 RSAs have been conducted to help prioritize safety improvements.
Each year, more than 87 thousand crashes occur on the arterial street system in the MAG region. Nearly half of all serious injury and fatal crashes in the region happen at intersections, and nearly 30 percent of fatalities are pedestrian related. The RSA program helps identify locations for safety improvements to provide enhanced crossings for pedestrians and better sight visibility at intersections, among other safety improvements.
The evolution of the RSA program has largely been based on the ADOT criteria for funding safety improvements through designated federal aid safety improvement funds. As the ADOT criteria has changed to meet federal requirements, MAG has changed its RSA process to meet that criteria. That means putting more emphasis on identifying a list of projects with the best potential for competing statewide for these funds. MAG staff noted this is the only source for federal aid funding of safety improvement projects for member agencies.
In the next couple of years, MAG will be working on an update to the 2015 Strategic Transportation Safety Plan. The development of the safety plan is anticipated to produce additional enhancements to the RSA program, address upward trends in crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians, and work to implement a comprehensive public education program.
MAG staff provided an update on MAG’s Policy Principles, a document that outlines and summarizes MAG’s positions regarding priority legislative and policy issues. MAG has been working on compiling the draft document since June, with the intent to have these principles in a brochure-type document readily available to MAG member agencies, external stakeholders, legislators and legislative staff.
The document vetting process has taken place in the MAG Economic Development Committee, Management Committee, Transportation Policy Committee and Regional Council, and significant positive conversations with elected officials.
The idea is to revisit these policy principles annually, which lay out both specific and broad positions MAG supports.
The TPC recommended the Transportation Policy Principles for approval. The comprehensive draft MAG policy principles are ready for consideration by Regional Council at the October 24, 2018, meeting.
Maricopa Association of Governemnts
302 North 1st Avenue, Suite 300
Phoenix, Arizona 85003