Over its nearly two-decade existence, Maricopa has not controlled maintenance and access over state highways that crisscross it. This is not uncommon for young cities, as they often develop along these roadways or corridors.
But as cities mature, Maricopa officials say, it becomes imperative they shape their destiny and make decisions at the local level to provide greatest benefit to their residents.
During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, members discussed how the Arizona Department of Transportation would transfer responsibility for maintaining portions of State Routes 347 and 238 within city limits to Maricopa. Over coming weeks, these agreements will move through a formal approval process.
Mayor Nancy Smith said the turnover will be an enticement to those looking to build in the area.
“I have had the opportunity over the last 21 days to speak to a couple of developers and they were ecstatic to hear about this,” Smith said. “Ecstatic. And so, I’m really excited, because it really does put our destiny in our own hands. I’m thrilled about this.”
The measure will now go before an ADOT board next Friday for approval.
Deputy City Manager Ben Bitter said the turnover would be a huge benefit for the city.
“This is monumental for the city of Maricopa,” Bitter said.
Vice Mayor Vincent Manfredi said the resolution provides the city with a level of freedom it did not previously have.
“This is an important turning point for the city of Maricopa,” Manfredi said. “No other city that I know of has its main thoroughfares throughout the city controlled by the state. This allows us to control our destiny. It allows us to control what we’re going to do as a city when it comes to the timing of the lights that everybody complains about.
“We’re growing up. We’re going to be 20 years old soon. We’re moving out. We’re becoming adults in the city of Maricopa and with that comes a lot of responsibility. That responsibility is going to be millions and millions of dollars to keep the road the way we want it. Self-determination is the greatest thing there is and we get to do that as a city.”
In a news release, the city said that, if approved, Maricopa would assume responsibility for maintaining these roadways, giving it the ability to streamline the permitting process for economic-development projects along the highways.
It also gives the city control over ease of access, design of intersections, signage standards and traffic-signal operations, making development along these corridors easier and giving the city a voice into how development unfolds.
Bitter added the city would gain four key benefits:
- Local control and a sense of urgency over the permit process for access or widening.
- Ability to determine access points, where appropriate, and design appropriately for the city, including determining whether roundabouts are the proper solution to mitigate traffic issues.
- Ability to designate where traffic signals are placed, and to have control of signals, including timing.
- Control of design standards, allowing the city to establish standards higher than those of ADOT in landscaped medians as well as decorative, powder-coated light poles and other aesthetic elements.
These proposed arrangements give the city control of these state highways only within city limits.
Maricopa does not get control over the section of SR 347 from the city’s northern border to Interstate 10 through the Gila River Indian Reservation. The city said, however, it will continue to work with ADOT, its tribal partners and all other appropriate jurisdictions to design a solution that adds additional capacity on SR 347 from Maricopa to I-10.
ADOT remains responsible for the planned widening of SR 347 north of Smith-Enke Road to the city limits, which recently began engineering design and is scheduled to begin construction next year. Once that project is complete, this stretch of roadway would be given to the city.
Editor’s note: Vincent Manfredi is an owner of InMaricopa.