Maricopa scored a big win in the effort for an overpass at the Union Pacific crossing on State Route 347 by landing a federal TIGER grant of $15 million. Photo by Michael Barnes

In a boost to the effort to build an overpass, the city of Maricopa has landed a $15 million discretionary grant from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.

TIGER VII grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation are dedicated to building or repairing road, rail, transit and port projects with potential national impact.

U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick led a delegation letter to USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx to approve the funding.

“I want to thank Congresswoman Kirkpatrick for her steadfast and persistent efforts in obtaining this $15 million TIGER grant,” Maricopa Mayor Christian Price said. “She has championed this project since she was elected to Congress and has been our strongest advocate and greatest ally. Without her efforts, I am certain this project would not have come to fruition. We can’t thank her enough for her incredible support.”

The $15 million will support Maricopa’s efforts to construct a grade-separated highway overpass on a new alignment at the intersection of State Route 347, which the letter to Foxx noted is “one of the most dangerous rail crossings in Arizona.”

The project will also construct a double track rail line and relocate an existing passenger station, and will construct rail siding to provide off-main rail line loading and unloading of passenger trains.

Though Maricopa did not put all of its hopes in the TIGER grant basket, it was pushing hard and gathering county, state and tribal support for the grade separation. Price highlighted the importance of the TIGER grant again in his State of the City address this month.

“This is a major breakthrough for a project that is needed more urgently now than ever,” said Kirkpatrick, who serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “This is the fastest growing area of Arizona, and the current grade crossing is affecting congestion, school bus routes and overall public safety. Building an overpass is the only way to resolve this dangerous situation, and I am thrilled that Maricopa now has the resources to move forward.”

The Arizona Department of Transportation has the planned overpass on its five-year plan. It is currently under design by engineers. Once design is 30 percent complete, expected sometime next year, the city can begin working with landowners to acquire property in the path of the overpass.

On the current schedule, actual construction of the overpass will start in 2020.

Urgency for this project has increased along with Pinal County’s rapid growth, which has led to congestion and traffic nightmares at the crossing. In the letter to Foxx, Kirkpatrick noted the crossing also “presents problems for emergency and hazardous materials vehicles that must often sit and wait for trains to pass or worse, stall traffic for more than 20 minutes as Amtrak load and unload passengers at the station next to the crossing.”

Other congressmen who signed the May 25 letter to Foxx were Trent Frank, Matt Salmon, Raul Grijalva, Paul Gosar, David Schweikert, Ruben Gallego, Martha McSally and Krysten Sinema.