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4/12/2008
Arizona: April 1 Prank Underscores Toll Road Unpopularity
Arizona governor takes radio station to task for April 1 toll road prank.

KTAR vs. NapolitanoA Scottsdale radio station's April Fool's prank generated hundreds of angry calls to Arizona lawmakers last week. Continuing a tradition of April 1 pranks, KTAR radio announced that the state would immediately begin collecting tolls of between 51 and $2.02 for driving on local highways. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) spokesman Doug Nintzel confirmed the tolling effort in a recorded interview.

With ADOT's statements lending credibility to the story, hundreds of motorists bombarded state and local officials and a special KTAR hotline to complain about the plan. The overwhelming volume of calls temporarily shut down the radio station's phone lines. Governor Janet Napolitano (D) counts herself among those outraged at the stunt, as Arizona's top elected official did not want the public to think her administration actually backed tolling.

"I am not a fan of toll roads," Napolitano said in a 2007 meeting, as reported by the Arizona Republic. "I'll tell you right up front. There's a reason I don't live in New Jersey."

Tolling has become a sensitive political issue in the state with legislators pushing to erect real toll booths on state highways. Last month, the state Senate passed Senate Bill 1420, a measure creating new public highway authorities that would oversee new tolling opportunities.

When Napolitano's office was informed in advance about KTAR's prank, the governor's chief of staff responded with an email dated March 31 that said the planned stunt was "not real helpful to us." The Arizona Republic reports another top Napolitano aide responded by calling it "irresponsible." ADOT went ahead and participated anyway.

KTAR Programming Director Russ Hill stood by what he said was a harmless joke and that Napolitano's office needs to "get a sense of humor."

Article Excerpt:
The prank story:

Valley Freeways Turn Into Toll Roads Wednesday
April 1st, 2008 @ 5:14am
by Jon Zimney/KTAR

On this April 1 comes a stunning development.

While Arizonans slept, lawmakers passed and Governor Janet Napolitano signed a historic bill requiring drivers to pay tolls on all Valley freeways to help balance the state's budget.

The tolls go into effect Wednesday.

Doug Nintzel of the Arizona Department of Transportation said the state has no choice.

"While we can't put an electronic toll system into place for several months, we will be able to place toll collectors at each of the freeway on-ramps, and they can take the tolls there," he said.

Here's how the pricing works: On the Loop 101, drivers will pay $1.01. On the Loop 202, it's $2.02. On State Route 51, it's a real bargain at 51-cents.

Nintzel said exact change will be required. If drivers do not have it, ADOT will make them turn around. Nintzel suggests to allow extra time for your morning commute Wednesday, perhaps as much as three hours.

For more details about this unbelievable story, call (602) 200-2700 or click here to read more.
Source: Gov.s office opposed April Fools prank (Arizona Republic (AZ), 4/9/2008)



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