Illustration - Light Rail on SR 347?
Light rail on State Route 347 connecting Maricopa to Phoenix? It could happen some day. Photo illustration by InMaricopa. Train photo by Loco Steve via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

For Maricopans who share a grand vision for their growing city, Thursday’s city planning session was like Christmas, a birthday and Mardi Gras rolled into one.

City Manager Rick Horst laid out an ambitious vision for the city, with numerous projects floated to increase livability for residents and propel efforts to become a destination city. Projects range from near-term to long-term – some would likely be decades down the road – and are as varied as additional street lamps and cleanup of blighted sections to a multi-use stadium at Copper Sky and the potential for a light rail line connecting Maricopa with the Valley.

Some highlights of the major proposals laid out by Horst in the meeting included:

  • Copper Sky. The expansion of city’s showcase facility could include additional soccer and softball fields, more walking paths and other recreational facilities, and potentially a multi-purpose outdoor stadium for sports competition or musical concerts. The expansion includes commercial development along John Wayne Parkway, including the new LaQuinta Inn, which is slated to open in March, and a possible relocation of the dog park to the east side of the facility to provide a marquee opportunity for boutique shops and restaurants.
  • Heritage District / South Bridge: Redevelopment of the Heritage District and development of the South Bridge area would include creation of a pedestrian-friendly area and marketplace to encourage mixed-use development. Horst envisions a public square surrounded by street-level shops with residences or offices on the second and potentially third floors. Pedestrian bridges would be built over the railroad tracks near the train station and in the south end of the district, connecting the two developments. There was talk of perhaps rebuilding the original train station and retaining the city’s iconic water tower.
  • New headquarters. A new police station is planned at the Estrella Gin development on the west side of the city. The 20,000-square-foot, two-story facility would be adjacent to the new Pinal County Courthouse complex already under construction. The facility will be designed for future expansion and will have space for all the existing police services with the exception of dispatch, which will be housed off site, at least initially. The complex would eventually connect to the Heritage District via a greenbelt/walking area.
City Manager Rick Horst
City Manager Rick Horst talks about a potential project during Thursday’s planning session for City Council. Photo by Jay Taylor
  • Civic Center Complex. Expanding dramatically eastward, the complex east of White and Parker Road would become a focal point for the city and serving as a destination downtown area with shops and entertainment. The city expects to begin marketing these parcels shortly. As part of the redesign, the existing police station might be repurposed to accommodate some city offices and space for art, recitals and a music studio.
  • Traffic and transportation. The city’s transportation future – at least in terms of auto traffic – could include a “ring road” that would encircle the city. On the west side of John Wayne Parkway, Horst indicated the need for a “second overpass” where the existing Green Road would cross the railroad tracks. He said the northern section of the ring road would circle northwest of the Cobblestone Farms community, then join SR 347 between ¼ and ½ mile north of the development. This would provide traffic relief on John Wayne Parkway for local residents, an easier and less-traveled route for truckers and reduced truck traffic noise for Cobblestone Farms residents. It also would take most truck traffic off the city’s busiest thoroughfare. Horst also envisioned a possible light rail line connecting the city with metro Phoenix. The long, long-term project could provide rail access along the SR 347 corridor, with the tracks potentially running down the middle of an expanded highway.
  • Flood control. Completion of the flood control measures in the Santa Rosa Wash including upgrading the area to incorporate walking paths and exercise stations as part of a $60 million project to finish the north Santa Cruz Wash flood mitigation project. Horst said it is likely that virtually none of these costs would be borne by existing Maricopa residents; they would be funded by a fee on new homebuyers and developers. The project would include a 110-acre retention basin. The tremendous amount of soil that would be excavated would require expensive trucking from the scene. Or, Horst suggested, perhaps the dirt could be used instead to construct hills and mounding around the area.