Friday, March 14, 2008

Goldwater Institute: Tackling Gridlock

Arizona Should Embrace Private Infrastructure Investment

By Leonard Gilroy

Like most other states, Arizona is facing a perfect storm in transportation. Our growing demand for roads is outstripping the supply, creating ever more gridlock. And there's barely enough funding to maintain existing roads, much less build the new ones needed to handle our rapid growth. Lastly, the fuel tax-our primary funding mechanism-has run out of gas, with increasing vehicle fuel efficiency steadily eroding its revenue-generating power.

Without new funding sources, we'll face L.A.-style gridlock, and our economic competitiveness will suffer.

To keep Arizona moving, we should follow the lead of Virginia, Florida, and other states that are literally attracting billions of dollars in private-sector transportation investment through "public-private partnerships." Private companies are financing and building major road projects, bringing new money to the table to relieve the pressure for tax hikes and improve mobility for drivers. As one example, a private team is financing the bulk of a $1.7 billion expansion of the severely congested Capital Beltway in Virginia, advancing a long-planned project that government couldn't afford.

Luckily, Arizona may be the next to join the pack of state innovators. Legislators are currently considering several bills to facilitate public-private partnerships and create the proper legal framework for private investment.

It's time to get serious about congestion. Tapping private-sector capital to build the infrastructure government can't afford would be a good place to start.

Leonard Gilroy is the Director of Government Reform at Reason Foundation and resides in Scottsdale.

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