Article: Arizona: April 1 Prank Underscores Toll Road Unpopularity
A 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." More