City banking on 6th time being the charm in getting grant for SR347 grade separation

By Kathleen Stinson

April 14, 2014 - 5:30 pm
City of Maricopa wants to provide a grade separation at SR 347 and the railroad tracks to ease traffic problems. File photo

Maricopa City Council will vote Tuesday whether to submit a grant to the U.S. Department of Transportation for money to construct a grade separation across State Route 347 at the Union Pacific railroad tracks.

This will be the sixth time the city has applied for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. The past five failed to win approval.

City officials said this newest application would be Maricopa’s best chance yet to get the $45.8 million to make this transportation priority a reality.

“Since the city was incorporated in 2003 and more people moved here, (the grade separation project) has been a priority for every council,” Mayor Christian Price said. “This is an absolute necessity for Maricopa to continue growing.”

What makes the city more optimistic about its chances now is the city will have a design concept report and an environmental assessment done later in the year – two important pieces to moving the project forward in the eyes of the federal government grant officials.

The TIGER grant would pay for 80 percent of the cost of construction, said city intergovernmental affairs director Paul Jepson. The city has the remaining 20 percent matching funds, or $9.4 million, from its capital improvements plan fund to put toward the project.

Mary Witkofski, city community programs manager, said the previous applications the city submitted and the feedback the national transportation department provided each time has given Maricopa the information it needed to write a better and “more competitive” application.

Price said applying for the grant is a “very competitive process,” noting last year the federal government had $3 billion worth of requests and $400 million in grant money.

He said the “difference is this year we are considered shovel-ready” with the environmental assessment and design concept reporter in the process of completion by the end of the year.

“That makes us primed and should really move us into position to get (the grant money),” he said. If funded, a grade separation could be operational by 2020.

Jepson said the grade separation would address a safety issue at the railroad tracks. The current configuration was designed to meet Maricopa’s needs in 1980, when the population was 1,000 people.

He said on average 60-plus trains, 34,000 cars and 160 school buses a day cross the railroad tracks. Fatalities have occurred at the intersection.

The city and the Arizona Department of Transportation have split the $1 million cost of funding the design concept reporter and the environmental assessment, Jepson said.

ADOT has scheduled a public hearing on the design concept report Aug. 14 at the Maricopa Unified School District office board room.

The grant application, if the council approves submission, would be due April 28, Witkofski said.

The federal government’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, so the soonest the city could get the money would be in the fall, if the application is approved, she added.

The council meets at 6 p.m. for a work session and 7 p.m. for its formal meeting Tuesday at City Hall, 39700 W. Civic Center Plaza

Click here to read the complete agendas. 

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