Overpass study: ADOT to host public hearing Wednesday

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It may not be as entertaining as usual, but Wednesday’s public gathering with the Arizona Department of Transportation will still have important information at hand.

ADOT is asking for public comment on the latest stage of the proposed overpass at State Route 347 and the Union Pacific Railroad. The hearing, which starts at 6 p.m., focuses on the new Draft Environmental Assessment for the study.

The overpass proposal is intended to increase safety as well as convenience.

“When a train comes, it divides the city,” said City Manager Gregory Rose.

ADOT is being very clear this is not a question-and-answer session.

“This is a more formal meeting than most we conduct,” said Tim Tait, ADOT assistant division director for communications. “This is a hearing on the draft environmental assessment, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (the federal law that we are required to follow in order to use federal funds).”

Even without the Q&A, the public can make formal comments on the EA that night, comments that could potentially influence the final draft, Tait said.

“There will be project staff available to answer general questions, but the purpose of the hearing is to receive formal input from the public on the proposed project,” he stated.

The public comment period began Nov. 18 and continues until Dec. 18. The project would replace the at-grade intersection with an overpass. It is meant to promote safety by taking traffic out of the path of a busy rail line and also allowing emergency vehicles faster access to both sides of the tracks without being stalled by a train.

 “There has been very positive community feedback,” Rose said. “There is good support for joining north and south Maricopa.”

He said the residents see the project as a step forward. Despite the prospect of suffering through the inconvenience of the construction phase, community members see it as a long-term solution, Rose said.

Funding is a different matter. The proposed project is currently estimated at $54 million.

The project is a partnership of ADOT, the City of Maricopa and Union Pacific.

“As the project moves forward, all funding sources will be considered as part of the implementation plan. The strong community partnership is one reason this significant project is able to move forward,” Tait stated.

“There is work we still have to do in securing funds,” Rose said.

The City of Maricopa has committed $8 million. “We’re exploring all of our avenues. With the help of the mayor [Christian Price] and Kelly Anderson with the State Transportation Board, we’ve had good success acquiring $18 million in state/federal funds,” Rose said. “We’re also appreciative of the support from the Ak-Chin community.”