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January 15, 2014

Host: Ted Simons

Freeway Update

  |   Video
  • We’ll hear from the Arizona Department of Transportation about progress on freeway construction in 2013 and freeway plans it has for this year.
  • Rob Samour - Department of Transportation
Category: Government   |   Keywords: government, transportation, construction, freeway, update, plans,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The Phoenix area’s freeway system continues to grow. Here to give us an update on current and future projects is Rob Samour, senior deputy state engineer for the Arizona Department of Transportation. Good to see you again.

Rob Samour : Thank you, good to be back.

Ted Simons: Freeway openings last year. What did we see out there?

Rob Samour : So we had the opportunity to make a lot of progress on the . So there were a number of projects, six in the corridor of which we've now completed four of those projects and motorists are able to enjoy those new widened lanes with the quieter asphalt pavement, rubberized asphalt pavement on the 303.

Ted Simons: Before we get to the particulars here, compare with what we expect in .

Rob Samour: So in , we'll continue construction on those remaining sections of the 303 but we'll also see some ground breaking on some bigger projects around the valley which will continue to help motorists with their daily commutes.

Ted Simons: Let me throw some things out here, the loop 101 , this is an HOV ramp from Bethany home to Glendale. Talk to us about that project.

Rob Samour: So a couple of years ago, there was a partnership between the Maricopa association of governments, Glendale's interest in additional access to the stadium so we put out a project in advance of the 2015 Super Bowl to construct HOV connectors to the existing Maryland road interchange. That is a unique interchange, or bridge, because it services just the HOV or that center high-occupancy vehicle lane and it will allow greater access in and around the venue at the sports arena.

Ted Simons: Completion date again?

Rob Samour : We should done sometime this summer, well in advance of the football season.

Ted Simons: I'm not out there as often as I used to be, traffic problems out there?
Rob Samour : Interestingly enough the HOV construction online occurs in the median so our contractor has found a unique way to limit any disruptions to the main line. There might be some interruption of the hov lane itself.

Ted Simons: There's a widening project on the from shay all the way up to the 202 . What's going on with this one?

Rob Samour: The map will show from shay boulevard down to the loop 202 red mountain freeway we're going to add a general-purpose lane to the outside. Construction should probably start sometime late this summer, we'll advertise for contractors late this spring. It will essentially add about miles of general purpose lane or one additional lane in each direction through that corridor.

Ted Simons: Now, that's southbound but northbound is it the same road or a little bit higher up there?

Rob Samour: And , just using general cross streets, it will be north to shay boulevard.

Ted Simons: So both sides of that which is already just a massive freeway, going to get one more lane.

Rob Samour: That's correct.

Ted Simons: What kind of restrictions?

Rob Samour: Motorists shouldn't see any reduced capacity in terms of lanes. There may be restrictions to set up barriers and other safety appurtenances to allow our contractor to work to the outside but in general, we'll try to keep the same number of lanes in construction, maybe restrict them in their overall width.

Ted Simons: Time line?

Rob Samour: I would say that project probably has months to two year duration. If we advertise this spring, contractor starts in the summer of '14, we should see completion by early '16.

Ted Simons: So starting this summer.

Rob Samour: That's correct.

Ted Simons: The 303 from I-10 from the map again from I- 10 to just short of grand avenue, explain what's going on here.

Rob Samour: Right so what your viewers are seeing are a number of segments, some that are completed, some that are still under construction. We had a total of six projects in that corridor that started as far back as . We have now completed four of those. The remaining projects to complete are the system interchange at I-10 and there will be a section from camel back to Glendale that will open here very quickly this spring. So we've invested approximately $500 million in that corridor for construction, landscape projects will follow behind, similar to most of the freeways in the valley. We landscape them with granite. So motorists towards the end of this year will have the with connectivity to the interstate so that corridor will be complete up to grand avenue.

Ted Simons: It looks as though I-17 to happy valley, is that completed? That's a done deal?

Rob Samour: So I-17 in north Phoenix to happy valley and Peoria did receive its initial two lanes in each direction. So four lane divided. And it is complete as far as the current program goes. That would leave the section essentially from happy valley down to U.S. with a number of projects and you mentioned projects to break ground that will break ground in .

Ted Simons: And this is I think the map you're talking about, happy valley down to grand avenue. Again, give me the time line again?

Rob Samour: A total of three projects. There's the interchange itself, the U.S 60. And 303 . There is the main line construction from U.S. 60 up to happy valley, both in Peoria, and then there's going to be an interchange that's not shown on your map at el mirage and that will be a stand-alone project. All three of those projects are in design or will be under construction in this year.

Ted Simons: So prepare for those.

Rob Samour: That's correct. They represent about $130 million of additional investment above what's been put in the .

Ted Simons: Speaking of prepare, what is going on with the southbound freeway? Where are we with that?

Rob Samour: The study team went out in May to public hearings right here in downtown Phoenix. We had a public comment period through the summer. We received upwards of , public comments and so for the last six months or so, the team's been responding to public comments on the 303. Along with those comments, we've revised what was called the draft environmental impact statement to include the comments, the revisions to the draft for a final, that will be submitted for additional review with our federal partners. The public will have one more opportunity to comment on that, and then we will submit it to our partners for final approval towards the latter half of this summer. We call that a record of decision.

Ted Simons: Record of decision, latter half of this summer, and then what?

Rob Samour: If the record of decision is favorable towards the preferred alignment, it would mean that we could begin final design. The current options in the study are a no build, which many people have heard of, and the preferred alignment on the road.

Ted Simons: If the preferred alignment is the choice, then what kind of time line?

Rob Samour ; Then we would start our final design. Some projects will go quicker than others. We have a number of mechanisms to put projects on the street. Traditional design bid build which we design it and we advertise it. Design build which allows us to partner with a contractor and design and construction happen simultaneously and then there's a couple of other alternative deliveries that we could choose from. With that said, we would look to start programming those projects out over the next five years. Currently, the design shows nine segments. We may be able to consolidate some of those to expedite construction.

Ted Simons: All right. Before we let you go, I understand that highway 24 out there in the southeast valley, that's got a connector to the202 , is that happening?

Rob Samour: Yes, the 24 is almost complete. Should see that late spring. That will give east valley motorists access to elsworth. It will allow for additional improvements at the mesa gateway airport and help with the overall regional connectivity for multimodal airport to system interchange.

Ted Simons: Very busy times. Good to have you here. Thanks for the update.

Rob Samour: Thanks for having me again.

Governor’s Race

  |   Video
  • Mesa Mayor Scott Smith entered the governor’s race today and instantly becomes one of the top republican contenders. Political consultant Jay Thorne will discuss the Arizona governor’s race.
  • Jay Thorne - Political Consultant
Category: Government   |   Keywords: governor, government, arizona, race,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," Mesa Mayor Scott Smith makes it official He is running for governor. We’ll hear about a lawsuit filed against Arizona’s law restricting same-sex marriage. And ADOT will join us for an update on valley freeway construction. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

Narrator: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of , members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I’m Ted Simons. Mesa mayor Scott Smith today announced that he is running for governor, a move that changes the dynamics of an already crowded field of republican candidates. Here to talk about those dynamics is political consultant Jay Thorne. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us. Surprised at this announcement at all?
Jay Thorne: There well there were some on-again, off-again speculations about this and as Ducey spent most of last year raising a great deal of money, there was speculation that mayor Smith may decide not to run but it wasn't really a surprise that he decided to. He's well positioned, he's a little bit more to the center than some of the candidates who are out there right now. He has a very different kind of resume. So not really a surprise but a little bit perhaps.
Ted Simons: Who is Scott Smith? Talk about his resume.
Jay Thorne: Well, he has been a very successful mayor for the third largest city in the state of Arizona, mesa. He has been bullish on economic development. He has been moderate and has been a support of governor brewer on things like proposition 100 , which raised taxes for a short period of time and on the Medicaid package that some Republicans opposed last year, he was there standing next to her supporting her on that. But he has rebuilt and he would say put the swagger back into the city of mesa. He has done an extraordinary job there with economic development. He's been a strong proponent of solar energy. So some things that are maybe a little bit more centrist than some of the Republicans that are in the race.
Ted Simons: So as far as the conservative moderate scale, he as you say fits a little bit more to the center than any or all of those candidates?
Jay Thorne: I would say probably all. And it's a function in part of being a mayor. Being a mayor is just a different kind of job than being state treasurer or secretary of state or a member of the legislature. You have budgets to meet that you are as the CEO of your city responsible for. There's a different position of being where the rubber meets the road. When you say centrist, it's a reflection of having to be more pragmatic in his role of mayor. I think he would say that he's very conservative.
Ted Simons: So is that his -- is that what he offers as far as a difference to the other candidates?

Jay Thorne: That's part of it. I think he would probably tell us that he has a different perspective, that he has a level of energy and enthusiasm and not state government thinking that he brings to the equation that makes him a different kind of candidate.

Ted Simons: Where will his support come from?

Jay Thorne: Well, he should be strong in the east valley. Obviously, as I said mesa, third largest city in the state. He should be strong there. Again, I don't think he's going to concede the conservative wing of the Republican party by any stretch. The most popular Republican I would argue in the state today is governor Brewer and what she decides to do, whether she decides to weigh in may have some bearing on this and as I said he's been a pretty staunch supporter of hers and there is still this small percentage chance that she ends up in the race because I'm not entirely sure she's given up that prospect herself.

Ted Simons: Let's say that she does not jump in. I have a funny feeling that hes he had talked to the governor a little bit here beforehand so it would be surprising a little bit if she were to go ahead.

Jay Thorne: That would be a surprise.

Ted Simons: In a variety of ways. Can he win a Republican primary?

Jay Thorne: I think he can win a Republican primary. In a race that is as divided with as many candidates that is that one has today and I'm not sure all of those candidates will be there by the time we get to July, it's about identifying your supporters and turning them out. It becomes a turnout game. And so he might be trying to expand some of the typical off-presidential year Republican primary base voters, but I do think he has a chance to win.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, can he rally the troops? If it is a tough primary and he does win, does he have enough do you think in the Republican circles to rally the troops in the general?

Jay Thorne: Absolutely. I think, you know, as we play with these scenarios, if he were to emerge from that primary, I think Republicans would rally around him rather strongly. If on the other hand, he makes it close but fails and it becomes a center versus right debate within that primary, that may end up helping what is now the lone democrat in the race, Fred DuVal. If Scott Smith were to win that primary, he would be a very formidable candidate in the general election.

Ted Simons: Would he be more formidable than those who lean farther right?

Jay Thorne: He would probably have a better chance of reaching independent and moderate Republican voters but it really depends on what the tone and tenor of the Republican primary turns out to be and we don't know what that looks like yet.

Ted Simons: Compare Scott Smith with a Fred DuVal because some see some similarities there and others say no, no, they're very different. What do you see?

Jay Thorne: They're very different. Fred is -- he has a track record of experience in government. He worked -- we've elected two democrats in Arizona as governor in the last years. Bruce babbit, Janet Napolitano. It was very bipartisan. He went on to serve as a regent. He has some experience in government but more experience really outside of it. Scott Smith again as being a mayor of the third largest city in the state of Arizona has been responsible for everything from the streets getting repaired to jobs to education within the city of mesa. He's been I think bipartisan in his approach to things. He's been a very happy, gregarious, charming fellow who's gotten along with everyone. So I think that race would be maybe more congenial than some of the other lineups might be but I think it would be close and I think it would be interesting, and I think the state would be really well served by it.

Ted Simons: Our debate wouldn't as fun.

Jay Thorne: It probably would be equally fun.

Ted Simons: Last question. They talk about state recognition and people like a Doug Ducey who hold state office, ken Bennett who holds state office, that that really does help because your name has been out there throughout the entire state. Obviously, Scott Smith very focused in mesa. Does that really make that much of a difference?

Jay Thorne: I think it makes a little bit of difference, and I think it certainly makes somewhat of a difference in a primary. Doug Ducey's traveled around the state and he's been on the ballot in every single county of the state. Scott Smith has not. Ducey has a million dollars in the bank, Scott Smith is just getting started. I do think it makes somewhat of a difference. Probably more about organization and structure than just name I.D.

Ted Simons: Yeah. Jay, good stuff, thanks for joining us

Same-sex Marriage Lawsuit

  |   Video
  • Four same-sex Arizona couples have filed a suit against Arizona’s law that restricts marriage to opposite-sex couples. Shawn Aiken, the plaintiff’s attorney, will talk about the suit.
  • Shawn Aiken - Attorney
Category: Law   |   Keywords: marriage, lawsuit, arizona,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Earlier this week, a class-action lawsuit was filed by four Arizona same-sex couples who claim that the state’s ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. Shawn Aiken is an attorney for the plaintiffs. Are you the lone attorney or are there others involved?

Shawn Aiken: My daughter is co-council, Ellen aiken and associates from my office.

Ted Simons: Good enough. So you are very much involved. It's good to have you here.

Shawn Aiken: Thank you.

Ted Simons: It's kind of hard to find some folks on the other side. They're still formulating whatever. That being said, what's going on here? What's the relief petition here?

Shawn Aiken: The relief is for an injunction against all the laws that discriminate against same-sex couples and keep them from getting either married here or having their valid out of state marriages recognized.

Ted Simons: And these are four couples, these are Arizona couples?

Shawn Aiken: Yes, they're four Arizona couples. Three in Maricopa county and one in penal county. Long-time residents.

Ted Simons: These are long time residents but were they married in other states?

Shawn Aiken: Two were, two were not. The two who were were married in California. In . Yes.

Ted Simons: And again, I understand the supreme court ruling on federal benefits is a big factor here. Talk about that ruling, talk about how it factors what you're trying to do.

Shawn Aiken: That ruling came down in June of last year. It's called United States versus Windsor. And in the Windsor case, the U.S. Supreme Court struck the defense of marriage act provision that banned federal benefits to same-sex couples. And our argument here is that for the same reason the federal government could not ban -- could not prohibit couples from receiving those benefits and ban marriage between same-sex couples, so, too, the state cannot do that. So we're asking for an extension really of the Windsor ruling is the way to look at it.

Ted Simons: And Arizona is not the only state, correct?

Shawn Aiken: One of states that currently bans same-sex marriage. And I am aware of cases in about half of those that are challenging those laws. So we're about number 15 or 16 .

Ted Simons: Critics of the move will say that the voters of Arizona did amend the Arizona Constitution to include the definition of marriage being of a man and a woman.

Shawn Aiken: Right.

Ted Simons: Done by the voters, Constitution amended, we can get to the court cases afterward in a second here or so but how do you respond to people who say this has already been addressed and the people have spoken?

Shawn Aiken: The people spoke in2008 . That was before Windsor. And secondly, it's never been the law in the United States that voters can pass discriminatory propositions. So the fact that the voters of Arizona said or did what they did in 2008 doesn't make it any more defensible than what the legislature did in the late 1990s. So I understand the point but the amendment doesn't make it any more defensible.

Ted Simons: Talk about the Court of Appeals ruling, though, in which seemed to uphold the definition and it seemed to say that lawmakers can decide if it's in a state's best interest to keep marriage between a man and a woman.

Shawn Aiken: That was a 2003 case, that was a very narrow ruling. We don't need to get into legal weeds on it, except to say that it came before the state Constitutional amendment. It came before Windsor and it's not an important consideration for us in our case. We're looking solely at the laws, the statutes and the state Constitutional provisions only.

Ted Simons: And again from the other side, the critics will say if you are looking only at statute, why not go to the legislature? Why not get the voters to address this again because it's been done in other states and in other states sometimes, it succeeds?

Shawn Aiken: Because my clients are suffering and without some relief from a court, the legislature's not going to act.

Ted Simons: Right now is it the 10th circuit taking up the Utah case?

Shawn Aiken: They are receiving briefs the Utah case.

Ted Simons: Talk about the Utah case real quickly.

Shawn Aiken: You bet. The Utah case is in federal district court. Judge Robert Shelby struck Utah's ban on same-sex marriage. And that's now on appeal to the th circuit. Briefs will be done in February and the decision will follow I would think in the spring.

Ted Simons: Again, the question Why not wait for that decision?

Shawn Aiken: Well, two reasons. One is the th circuit could reverse and secondly what happens in the th circuit doesn't govern here in the ninth circuit where Arizona is in any event. So I have clients who are looking for relief and looking for an answer and so we're in court here in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Does it seem as though regardless of where it goes, the avenues taken, this is going to wind up in the Supreme Court?

Shawn Aiken: I don't think there's any question about it. All the authorities, people who know this issue a lot better than I do agree that sooner or later, the supreme court is going to have to resolve this issue, namely how will state legislatures and voters in the states be allowed to treat this issue?

Ted Simons: And I mentioned earlier the idea of going to the legislature and some would scoff at that idea but the fact is it is an option. Is that even a consideration as far as folks -- same-sex married couples who are looking for relief but perhaps outside of the courts?

Shawn Aiken: Well, it's certainly an option and I'm probably not the most informed member of the community on that question. I do know in getting ready to file this lawsuit that the question has come up in the Arizona Senate, the last two sessions. I think there was a proposal. But it gets nowhere and so the question is why wait?

Ted Simons: And so what is the time table now for your suit?

Shawn Aiken: We expect responses from the defendants of one stripe or another in February. And for reasons that will be beyond by control, namely a very good judge and very able defendants, I can't say for sure how long it will be to resolution, I hope in . The Utah case was 10 months, complaint to resolved, March to December.

Ted Simons: All right, and again, as far as the 10th circuit is concerned, you're saying ninth circuit is independent of the10th of 10th but you do get an indication, you do get a hint, you do get a suggestion of where this thing is headed?

Shawn Aiken: I think that the law is changing in my clients' favor, there's no question about it and the Utah case is an indication of it.

Ted Simons: Shawn, good to have you here. Thank you. My pleasure.