State road funding dries up

Phoenix, AZ – The state is putting an immediate halt to more than $170 million worth of road projects -- including widening the highway to the Hoover Dam --- because federal funds are drying up. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer explains.

The state has about $4 billion in transit projects planned for
the next five years in just rural Arizona, with the federal
government supposed to fund about 60 percent of that. But federal
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced Friday that the
highway trust fund is in danger of drying up by the end of the
month. She directed her agency to give out state aid only on a
week-by-week basis -- and only to the extent cash is available.
ADOT spokesman Doug Nintzel said with funding in doubt, his
agency is unwilling to award new contracts.

(We can't move forward on a system based on IOUs. And that's
what's being talked about, that the system is such that, well,
we're going to amend things in Washington and we'll give you this
much money on a pro-rated basis.)

The federal fund already was in trouble before higher gas prices
resulted in Americans driving less. That means they're not paying
as much in the gasoline taxes that replenish the fund. Nintzel
said even just a delay can create problems. He noted that new
bridge now being built over the Colorado River is expected to be
completed in 2010. Nintzel said the road-widening project, when
finally awarded, will take two years -- meaning that it may not
be ready when the new span opens.

For Arizona Public Radio, this
is Howard Fischer.