Bill could boost road tolling in Arizona

A new Arizona bill has been signed into effect by Governor Jan Brewer which could see the implementation of a tolling system framework more favourable to the private sector.

The long-running debate about whether or not to bring road tolling to Arizona might be a step closer to reaching conclusion with the recent passing of legislation authorising electronically based toll enforcement.

Governor Jan Brewer has signed House Bill 2491 (HB 2491) into law, helping to add credence to a formidable chorus in state government clamoring to introduce tolling via public-private partnerships (PPPs). The newly minted bill followed a previous law, HB 2396, which was first established in 2009.

The two-year-old HB 2396 permitted Arizona to create a road tolling system, but was often criticised as not comprehensive enough to attract private capital, largely because of its lack of a clearly defined legal framework for electronic tolling – considered essential to modern open-road tolling.

In particular, HB 2396 was considered weak because of a provision that let toll road users obtain a refund on fuel tax. That provision was peeled off in the latest bill, which itself has stirred public concern because of its allowance of license suspension and vehicle impoundment.

HB 2396, also enacted by Brewer, offered a design, build, finance and operate (DBFO) structure as well as a design, build, finance, operate and maintain (DOBFM) alternative.

In addition to Brewer, state representative Karen Fann penned her own bill. Titled HB 2358, her would-be law would allow the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) to implement tolling with a private partner. Fann, like Brewer, a Republican, stressed her bill did not advocate tolling a specific road.

HB 2491 was sponsored by ADOT. The department drew up the bill with help from Nossaman, a Los Angeles-headquartered law firm.

Meanwhile, ADOT has also begun exploring a PPP to construct a new office. The department is open to private sector feedback through June.

The department, headquartered in Flagstaff, is looking to relocate its current office to free up city property for “transportation redevelopment,” according to ADOT.