The success of two transportation propositions on Tuesday’s ballot opens “possibilities” for Maricopa, according to Mayor Christian Price, but leadership will be mandatory.
Prop 416 passed by a 6,400-vote margin. Prop 417 passed by a 901-vote margin.
Even if the half-cent sales tax in Prop 417 brings the kind of revenue expected for the Pinal County road improvements connected to Prop 416, the widening of State Route 347 has complications. One of those is the sizable portion of SR 347 in Maricopa County.
“It would be silly to [improve] just part of the road,” Price said. “But we can say we are bringing $30 million to the table.”
The project of adding a lane in each direction is preceded by engineering studies, environmental studies, the National Environmental Policy Act process and design work. Before any of that, a successful project can only start through cooperation with Gila River Indian Community, Arizona Department of Transportation and Maricopa Association of Governments.
Price said they are all “very well aware” of the efforts of the City of Maricopa and Pinal County to take action on SR 347. Procuring funding, he said, was the ignition for starting a project.
There is no guarantee all parties who are impacted by SR 347 will be on board with any project moving forward.
“That’s the trick of voter referendum,” Price said. “You can’t make them do something.”
The mayor, however, sees it as an opportunity for officials in both counties to show cooperation, investment and leadership. That, Price said, could set them up for another federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. A TIGER grant was crucial for the overpass project in Maricopa.
A TIGER grant is the opportunity for millions more in funding for road widening, drainage or even an overpass, Price said. The federal grant also puts a tight timeline on projects it funds.
An outspoken opponent of prop 416 and 417 sees darker opportunities wrought by the passage of the measures, however.
“The narrow passing of Prop 417 represents a big win for special interest, bloated bureaucracy and prime opportunities to misuse taxpayer money,” said Alan Marchione, a former city councilmember in Maricopa. “A lawsuit is sure to follow, as the structure of the tax is not legal under existing state statute, whereas the county cannot set an arbitrary cap on the uniform implementation of sales tax. The county knew this, and proceeded anyhow. This exudes poor ethics and professionalism on the part of Pinal County supervisors.”
Marchione said while the county needs improved infrastructure, but these propositions were not the answer.
“The plan for Maricopa’s SR 347 is limited in its vision towards a long-term solution for improving traffic flow,” he said.
The 18 proposed projects included in the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) plan include three in the Maricopa area. The SR 347 project is widening nine miles of highway for $28.8 million. That is slated for Phase 1 of the RTA.
The second Maricopa-related project is the East-West Corridor. That is the widening of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway from Maricopa to Val Vista Road, and then widening that road and making it a straight shot to Interstate 10 north of Casa Grande.
A third project south of Maricopa is the creation of a West Pinal Freeway. That new roadway would carry westbound traffic off of Interstate 8 at Casa Grande, north on Montgomery Road and then west on a new road north of and parallel with Highway 84 before turning north into Maricopa County.
Other projects around the county include improvements on SR 287 and Selma Highway and new north-south roadways. Price said if officials cannot make progress in improving SR 347, the money will be turned over to other Maricopa road projects.
The anticipated revenue from Prop 417 is $640 million.
“We appreciate voters taking this step with us to improve it,” Steve Miller, chairman of the Yes on Propositions 416 and 417 campaign, said in a statement Thursday. “More jobs, better public safety, safer roads and an enhanced quality of life will be the result.
“It was a robust debate over the past couple of months. The many voices should be commended for weighing in. We hope all will now be respectful of the will of our more than 40,000 people that cast ballots.”