Arizona economy will grow with highways and freight trains

by Byron Schlomach
Goldwater Institute

Arizona’s economy seems to be headed for a long, gradual recovery. Policymakers have the opportunity now to set the stage with thoughtful decisions about what kind of infrastructure will support future economic growth.

A recent story in the Arizona Republic described a luncheon sponsored by the Salt River Project and the East Valley Partnership to discuss future infrastructure needs. It is clear from the story that many policymakers understand that additional transportation options will be key to Arizona’s prosperity.

The state’s almost 7 million people are relatively isolated by geography. The nearest large metropolitan areas to Phoenix are hundreds of miles to the east and west. That means we have to make it convenient and inexpensive to move goods and the raw materials to make goods into and out of our state, whether by rail or by truck.

Fortunately, two years ago the Arizona Legislature foresaw these needs and reformed the state’s public-private partnership law to make it easier for private investors to help fund new highways.

Arizona isn’t as well positioned with rail, but we could be. Policymakers could make it easier to get freight through the state by approving projects such as the Union Pacific rail line expansion that has been held up for years in a public relations battle.

There is also the danger of infrastructure policy heading in the wrong direction. One option discussed at that luncheon was high-speed passenger rail. Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation has done a good job of explaining its shortcomings: the vast expanse of the United States and a lack of passengers willing to pay the true cost of high-speed rail means taxpayer subsidies would have to be much larger than Arizona can afford.

We need transportation infrastructure options with benefits to the economy that clearly outweigh the costs. The way to achieve this is to make sure users pay for most of the construction and operating expenses. Roads and freight rail meet these criteria. High speed rail, on the other hand, would be taxpayer-subsidized forever and would offer limited economic benefit.

Byron Schlomach, Ph.D., is an economist and director of the Center for Economic Prosperity at the Goldwater Institute.


  1. Oh yeah, toll roads, that will be great! Byron the Bozo should pull his head out of his butt.

  2. So high speed rail is bad… I get that part, but are you saying something like slower rails could be good? So something like amtrak?? Something that gets close to one billion in subsidies anually…

  3. Another Goldwater Institute pro-tax, pro-big-government sellout.

    Public Private Partnerships are only good solutions if they are REVENUE NEUTRAL.

    In other words, if they result in net INCREASED REVENUE (and therefore SPENDING) to state budgets, then they were just a TAX INCREASE and support HIGHER SPENDING.

    Any “excess” revenue to the state from a PPP should be RETURNED TO THE TAXPAYERS.

    Goldwater knows this, but in their continuing leftward trajectory and sellout of basic limited government principles, they FAIL to talk about this little fact.

  4. Strategically placed freight lines make money, so that’s a good idea, emphasis on “strategic” – as in identifying corridors where a rail line would indeed enhance efficiency and reduce costs, and avoiding overbuilding.
    This country is too massive and decentralized for passenger trains. Aviation handles people traffic very well already with less necessary infrastructure investment.
    Just because rail works in Japan, where they artificially help the rail by taxing the price of gasoline out the window, and it’s a long thin country doesn’t mean it works in the sprawly USA.
    The subway works in New York, but its UNUSUAL verticality concentrates people, but metro rail struggles in lower density urban areas like Washington DC and should have been laughed out the door when first suggested for flat-out Phoenix. Now, we get to cry about the years ahead of annual subsidy pleas for “too big to fail” and “we HAVE to” bail out what will be known as the “Red Line.”

  5. BULL and PUCKEY

    Schlomach is a Schlemiel

    He also favored the Tortoise Trolley that increased congestion and pollution. NO TOLL ROADS IN ARIZONA. We pay more than enough in gas and use taxes to build the necessary transportation infrastructure.

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