In case you missed it, there is a very important op-ed in today’s Arizona Republic from Doug Pruitt, former chairman and CEO of Sundt Construction, regarding the latest efforts by the anti-transit crowd to game the system and thwart the will of the voters. You can read it here.
We had the pleasure of working with Doug when he was chairman of the Yes on 400 committee. He has also been a tireless community and business advocate serving on groups such as the Arizona Commerce Authority, Greater Phoenix Leadership, AGC of America, and many others. He was named a “Most Admired Leader” by the Phoenix Business Journal and a “Hero of Education” by the Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation. We are inspired by his commitment to the future of our state and our region.
Light rail foes want to undo 3 public votes and 20 years of transit planning. Don’t let them
J. Doug Pruitt, opinion contributor | Arizona Republic
For 45 years, I had the honor of working for Sundt Construction and be a part of many important construction projects across the United States and Arizona. I have seen firsthand how critical transportation is for our community and the future of our economy.
Our leaders understood that in 1985 when they originally came together to pass the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and again nearly 20 years later with its continuation.
I was honored to serve as the chairman of the Yes on Proposition 400 campaign in 2004 to continue the half-cent sales tax dedicated to funding the RTP. We understood that it was critical to have a multimodal plan that could help move people, goods and services throughout the Valley to reduce congestion, improve our air quality and build strong communities.
The first vote in 2004 passed handily
That is why Proposition 400 took a balanced approach and called for:
- 344 miles of new or improved freeways,
- 275 miles of new or improved arterial streets,
- 34 improved intersections,
- 40 new regional bus routes,
- 2,100 new buses,
- 1,200 new bus pullouts,
- 27 new miles of light rail,
- 1,000 new dial-a-rides, and
- 38 park and ride lots.
The plan was passed overwhelmingly with nearly 58 percent of Maricopa County voters voting yes.
Ultimately, because of the economic recession we did not see all of those projects completed, but the Valley’s freeway system and transit systems we enjoy today are a direct result of that continued wise investment.
Voters again said yes to transit in 2015
Voters further voiced their support for transportation investment in 2015 when nearly 55 percent of Phoenix voters passed Proposition 104, Phoenix’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan.
The proposal replaced Phoenix’s existing four-tenths of 1-cent sales tax (originally passed in 2000) with a seven-tenths of 1-cent sales tax. Street improvement goals include:
- 680 miles of new asphalt on major arterials,
- 1,080 miles of new bicycle lanes,
- 135 miles of new sidewalks,
- 2,000 new street lights,
- $240 million for new roads and upgraded bridges, and technology enhancements.
Transit goals included: new light rail, bus rapid transit, expanded bus service hours and improved frequency, new Dial-a-Ride vehicles, new buses, new and extended bus routes, and increased security on bus and light rail.
Both struck a well-planned balance
In both of these plans you see one major theme — a well-planned balance.
More than 20 years of transportation planning and investment have made the valley one of the most attractive places to start a family and build a business. Our quality of life, cost of living, improved air quality and reduced congestion are why we are one of the fastest growing and most attractive markets in the entire country.
It is also helped increase mobility and build hope for growing communities such as south Phoenix where households are four times more likely to not have a car compared to other households throughout the Valley.
Prop. 104 provided additional public transit services to south Phoenix to provide families with convenient access to key destinations such as work and school. That is why more than 70 percent of south Phoenix residents voted for Prop. 104.
However, a small group is trying to take these options away from south Phoenix.
In 2004, a group of anti-transit activists spent more than $1.5 million to oppose Prop. 400. They lost. In 2015, the anti-transit activists formed two separate opposition committees and invested thousands of dollars to oppose 104. They lost.
Will the courts make the right choice?
Today, the anti-transit folks are back, filing a petition in the City of Phoenix into an effort to stop the funding of any light rail — including south Phoenix. They want to undo 20 years of planning and three public votes because they lost the first three times (Phoenix voters also approved a tax in 2000 for light rail and other projects).
They are trying to game the system and in the process have failed to follow the rules. They paid for each individual signature, which is illegal under state law, and their misleading 100-word description failed to mention that they were defunding all existing light rail maintenance costs.
Litigation has been filed by the Arizona Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America — the organization who helped with the first three votes to make sure that the anti-transit opponents are held to the same standards as everyone else.
I hope for the sake of more than two decades of transportation planning and three public votes that the courts hold them accountable.
J. Doug Pruitt is the former chairman and CEO of Sundt Construction, former national president of AGC of America (2009), and served as chairman of the Yes on 400 Committee in 2004. Reach him at email@example.com.