Maricopa commuters, Teresa Martinez says she has your back.
Since the failure of Proposition 469 in November – which would have provided funding for improvements to State Routes 347 and 238, as well as other Pinal County highways – Martinez is finding ways to keep those and other vital transportation projects moving forward.
A Republican District 16 representative and the Majority Whip, who represents Maricopa in the Arizona Legislature, Martinez has made transportation in Pinal County her main priority.
And she is delivering results.
Last week, the Legislature passed a bill allocating more than $20 million to the Arizona Rural Transportation Advocacy Council to fund highway projects around the state. It included funding for four improvement projects important to Maricopa drivers, including:
- Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, from Burris to Anderson roads.
- Green Road, from SR 347 to McDavid Road.
- Sonoran Desert Parkway, from Porter and Fuqua roads.
- Rancho El Dorado Parkway bridge construction and Santa Rosa Wash improvements in the area.
But Martinez wants more.
She said she is working to get funding to keep the SR 347 widening project moving even in the absence of a funding replacement for Prop. 469.
“I’ve (introduced) a couple of bills personally,” Martinez said. “I support the Rural Transportation Bill, but I wasn’t sure it was going to go forward and not get cut. I got $19 million in the last session for 347, and we want to use some of that for 238, as well. So, we are going to use some of that for design and study of 347, about $6 million, so there is $13 million left over. The city wants to use that $13 million to finish the improvements to 238 completely, and that bill has now passed committee.
“The state will fund it, and the city will throw in about $6 million, and it will be done.”
Martinez has introduced three bills this session to keep progress on local projects, particularly SR 347, moving forward:
- House Bill 2063 — Passed unanimously in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is pending before the Appropriations Committee. It allocates $800,000 for design work to improve SR 238 from SR 347 to Green Road; $6 million for design work for widening lanes along SR 347 from Interstate 10 to Maricopa; and $15 million to conduct a Tier 2 study for the North-South Corridor in Pinal County.
- HB 2449 — Also passed unanimously in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday and is now pending before the Appropriations Committee. It would allocate $9.7 million from the state general fund to Pinal County for engineering and design of the Sonoran Desert Parkway.
A separate, yet unassigned bill proposed by Martinez would bring in still more money for SR 347 improvements.
Mayor Nancy Smith is enthusiastic about how those funds would benefit the city.
“(Martinez’) bills for SR 347 and 238 are critical for improvements in transportation,” Smith said. “The $6 million will be used for design of 347. This is critical because with the design complete, when funding is available for construction, we’re ready to go immediately. Another $13 million will be used to ready on SR 238 for growth on the west side of our city.”
Even if all of those bills make it through the Legislature fully funded, Martinez said she plans to continue looking for innovative ways to expedite improvements to SR 347.
“Now, with the issue (of converting the I-10/SR 347 interchange to a diverging diamond) with 1-10, I’m saying, ‘You know what, if I could get another $20 million for 347, we can get the project up to I-10 going with the preliminaries – fund the surveys, studies, environmental-impact reports. We can start that process with this money.”
Finally, she has introduced a bill requesting another $9 million to complete improvements on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.
“If we can get those bills passed and funded, it would be a good interim solution until we can get 469 back on the ballot and get the full funding,” Martinez said. “If we can do that, and it passes, we would already have all the preliminaries in process, so we won’t have a three- or four-year gap waiting. If I can find that money and get it going, then we avoid that gap, so let’s get that started.”
“If (a new funding bill) doesn’t pass, I’ll keep going back until we get the money. I’m going to be a fierce advocate for those roads,” she said. “I will talk to ADOT about what we can do about them in the interim.”
City Councilmember Vincent Manfredi said having strong relationships with state representatives is a boon to Maricopa.
“It’s great to have a Representative Martinez, and Senator (TJ) Shope along with Representative (Keith) Seaman working for us to ensure that we have part of the funding we need to get transportation infrastructure improvements within our area,” Manfredi said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us and having them on our side will help a ton.”
Editor’s note: Vincent Manfredi is owner of InMaricopa.
While state, county and city leaders try to find other ways to raise money to widen State Route 347 – which could include putting another proposition on the ballot – Maricopa Mayor Nancy Smith says there are several actions that could make the heavily traveled and often congested road safer.
- Increasing Department of Public Safety patrols from Interstate 10 to the Maricopa city line.
- Ticketing serious offenders to deliver the message it can be a matter of life or death.
- Encouraging DPS to provide additional help to move traffic at rerouted intersections, such as Casa Blanca Road, when an incident forces closure.
- Developing crossover opportunities, which would be controlled by ADOT during times of extended closures, to allow stalled traffic to safely turn around.
- Faster cleanup of collisions to mitigate closures, essential for safety and those stuck on the road after an incident.
- Adding a middle concrete barrier for safety.
- Extending the length of lanes for traffic entering and exiting SR 347 at the Queen Creek/I-10 overpass to mitigate backups.
- Adding lighting or quality reflectors to improve vision at night.
- Restricting trucks to right lane only except to pass.
- Adding signage regarding unlawful slow drivers who remain in the left lane and pull over slower drivers who stay in the left lane.
- Educating drives with a campaign billboard.
- Improving signage to alert drivers approaching a closed road to help safely reroute them.
- Adding signage with flashing lights to remind drivers SR347 is a “High-accident road.”