Luther Propst Outlines Conservation Vision for Arizona – November 08
Arizona Republic Opinion Piece – Luther Propst:
by Luther Propst – Nov. 30, 2008 12:00 AM

Luther Propst Outlines Conservation Vision for Arizona

Arizona’s future – its prosperity, quality of life and ecological health – depends on the quality of its placemaking, and that depends on our providing smart, sustainable transportation options, particularly rail and public transit.
As a conservationist who has worked for many years to preserve Arizona’s open spaces and to protect what we value about Arizona, I enthusiastically embrace rail and public transportation because these investments offer the best opportunity to change our sprawling development patterns and preserve our desert heritage.
And, indeed, strong state leadership on rail and transit investment is critical now, with the added benefit that it will also create jobs and the type of sustainable economic activity that President-elect Barack Obama talked about in his campaign.
But developing state-of-the-art links between Phoenix and Tucson, and between Phoenix and Southern California, not only exceeds the local fiscal capacity but is at least partly the responsibility of the nation.
So we need a supportive federal partner in the coming years to provide matching funding for transportation projects, lead on certain large-scale projects such as high-speed rail to Southern California, and in other ways provide more control to states and regions to determine allocation of transportation dollars among rail, roads and transit.
Which brings us back full circle: State leadership on rail and transit issues is critical because it lets federal officials know the value Arizonans place in making such investments – and that is important because matching federal funding will be essential to ensure the success of our rail and public-transportation projects.
As for a good place to start, let’s use California as an example and move to build a passenger-rail system to link Tucson and Phoenix. This would reduce traffic congestion and air pollution and would reduce the incentives for more sprawling development, particularly in Pinal County. Luther Propst is executive director of the Sonoran Institute.