Audit says ADOT faces budget shortfall of $62.7 billion and needs solutions

by Curtis Spicer, Cronkite News Service

Motorists may need to pay more at the pump, on the roads or at the cash register to meet the funding needs of the Arizona Department of Transportation through 2035, according to a recent state audit.

The Office of the Auditor General released an audit on Monday that projects a $62.7 billion shortfall through fiscal year 2035 if the state Legislature doesn’t pass new directives. The auditors recommended the state form a task force to address the problem.

State Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, said something needs to change, even if voters don’t like it.

“People don’t realize it costs money to maintain roads,” Fann said. “The major problem we have with voters in our state is that they are predominantly for no new taxes.”

On its current course, ADOT will only receive $26.2 billion in revenue – from various federal and state taxes – by 2035. The department needs about $88.9 billion to maintain operations and develop new infrastructure, according to the audit.

The auditor’s report recommends several options to address the revenue shortfall. They include altering fuel taxes, creating toll roads, developing or increasing new vehicle fees, setting up an alternative vehicle fee, imposing a sales tax or utilizing the state’s general fund money.

Audit highlights

  • As of 2014, about 88 percent of pavement the department maintained was in good or fair condition.
  • As of 2013, 98 percent of department-maintained bridges were in good or fair condition.
  • ADOT needs to spend $260 million on preservation projects each year between fiscal years 2016 and 2025 to maintain the existing system in its current condition.
  • The state’s population increased from more than 3.6 million to more than 6.6 million people between fiscal years 1990 and 2014.
  • Congested streets cost motorists by wasting time and money, and 41 percent of Arizona’s major urban highways are congested, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Source: Arizona Office of the Auditor General

Read more at AZCentral.com