The Senate Transportation Committee has approved a measure requiring the Arizona Department of Transportation to work with private partners to convert carpool lanes on a Phoenix-area state freeway into toll lanes by November 2013.

SB 1471, which will be considered by the full Senate this week, would allow vehicles with more than one occupant to use the lanes at no or reduced cost, with single-occupancy vehicles paying the full toll.

If the measure becomes law, the highway department would have to issue a request for proposals for converting the high-occupancy vehicle lanes on Arizona Highway 51 by Nov. 15, 2013. The bill allows but does not mandate that AZDOT also convert HOV lanes on other state freeways into toll lanes.

The measure was one of several bills before the committee that focused on ways to cope with growing traffic congestion, rapidly rising highway construction costs, and stagnant highway user tax revenues.

The committee also approved SB 1466, which would require AZDOT to privatize rest areas along state highways, and SB 1503, calling on the department to privatize the construction of new lanes on existing freeways by July 2009.

Two measures that would have allowed state toll roads failed in committee. Members deadlocked on a bill ordering the AZDOT to develop private-public partnerships to finance and operate state transportation projects, and rejected one allowing the department to enter into P3s for the construction, financing, and operation of state toll roads.

The committee delayed a vote on a bill that would enable cities, counties, and the state to form special transportation authorities with the power to finance, construct, and operate public highways and toll roads in Arizona with private partners.

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