Arizonans are running on empty, and they’re not alone. People all across the country are suffering because our transportation system – the backbone of our economy for decades – is broken.
Our overdependence on oil and neglect of our roads has resulted in an overburdened, frail transportation system.
A lack of transit options has stranded too many Arizonans as gas prices rise and buying power falls.
Yet Arizona leaders in both major parties have failed to take serious action on policy to reduce our dependence on oil and alleviate stress on our pocketbooks.
Investment in public transit infrastructure needs to be a key part of our economic recovery.
With high gas prices, decreasing household budgets and a lagging economy, we can strengthen our state and communities by building a 21st century transportation system.
That project will create jobs, save Arizonans money, reduce our dependence on oil, revitalize communities, cut Arizona’s global warming emissions and decrease air pollution and its public health impacts.
The Arizona Public Interest Research Group Education Fund recently joined with Transportation for America to advocate for a five-point plan to move us in a new direction. We need to:
• Build to compete: We must catch and pass competitors in Asia and Europe by modernizing and expanding rail and transit networks to reduce oil dependence and connect the metro regions that are the engines of the modern economy.
• Invest in a clean, green recovery: Our state and nation will need cleaner vehicles and new fuels, but we also must support the cleanest forms of transportation – modern public transit, walking and biking – and energy-efficient, sustainable development.
• Fix what’s broken: Before building new roads to be maintained, we must restore our crumbling highways, bridges and transit systems.
• Stop wasteful spending: Re-evaluate projects in the pipeline to eliminate those with little economic return that could deepen, rather than relieve, our oil dependence.
• Save money: Provide more transit options that are affordable and efficient, while helping people to avoid high gas costs and traffic congestion.
Save taxpayer dollars by asking the private developers who reap real estate rewards from new rail stations and transit lines to contribute toward that service.
Acting on this five-point agenda has the potential to support 6.7 million jobs building $240 billion in ready-to-go rail and rapid bus projects in 78 metro areas; 14.8 million jobs over the next five years repairing crumbling bridges, roadways and transit systems for a $512 billion investment; reduce oil consumption; save money for our families; and help communities with growth and congestion.
In every recent recession, Congress has invested in infrastructure to spur recovery. Our future prosperity requires investment in our infrastructure, and our tax base depends on it.
Government cannot do this alone. Business and civic leaders as well as individuals must share a commitment to getting our state and nation moving again.
The next president, Congress and Arizona decision-makers can put us on the right path by committing to work together and adopt a bold plan.
The plan can guarantee that our transportation system produces the best returns for our economy and our communities.
Alex Nelson is with the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. E-mail: anelson@arizona pirg.org