When you drive down the road or merge onto the freeway, you may not be thinking of how roads are funded, but statistics derived from the U.S. census are vital to bringing federal transportation dollars into the region each year. Data compiled from 2020 census responses not only will determine public funding levels for a variety of community programs and services but will also be used in planning decisions for new regional transportation projects.
Allocation of federal tax dollars is based on a state’s population, and an accurate census count ensures Arizona receives an adequate amount of funding for schools, housing, health care and transportation programs or services.
“Federal transportation dollars are coveted, so ensuring that Arizona receives every last dollar is of utmost importance,” said Pima Association of Governments’ Transportation Planning Director Paul Casertano.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Highway Planning and Construction program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grants are just two of the federal programs that are tied to census data. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the DOT distributed more than $38 billion through the Highway Planning and Construction program in 2015.
Arizona is one of the fastest growing states, and new census counts should reflect that. Growth means that Arizona should receive a greater portion of federal transportation funds than it has in the past.
“Federal transportation and transit program funding is critical to states such as Arizona, which continues to see significant population growth and increases in transportation needs,” said Casertano. “Census data also help determine how state tax revenues are distributed locally.”
Equitable distribution of public funding based on quality data is one piece of the census puzzle. Government and private sectors also use census data to help guide many of their decisions, such as where to construct new houses, where to build or expand businesses, and where to locate schools and medical facilities. These projects all need corresponding transportation infrastructure, and transportation planners rely on a variety of census statistics to provide reliable, safe and convenient transportation options for their communities.
Census data are also used to help determine the requirement for each state to match federal transportation dollars with local dollars. An undercount in the 2020 census would directly result in lower population estimates, which would lead to a reduced state share of transportation funding.
Whether your participation in the census is to help ensure fair federal funding distributions or more informed decision making by the public and private sectors, the results are critical to steering needed federal transportation dollars into the region.
You can make sure community programs and services get the money they deserve by filling out your census form online at 2020census.gov soon and encouraging others to do the same. Everyone living in the United States on April 1, 2020, must be counted. Take five minutes to shape your future.