Mayor Price stumps for overpass funding from ADOT

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Maricopa Mayor Christian Price, as well as members of the City Council, will be traveling to Pinetop-Lakeside on Friday, to discuss funding awards from the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) for the State Route 347 overpass.

The State Transportation Board is voting on the final five-year plan. The ideal outcome of the meeting would provide Maricopa with sufficient funding for the project, Price said. This would require ADOT to approve the five-year plan proposed by the city of Maricopa.

However, there is no guarantee this will happen.

“The best-case scenario would be for ADOT to approve the proposal as is, and we could move forward with complete funding,” Price said. “Worst case scenario, they could allocate the funds to somewhere else entirely. If this happened, we would turn to our partners, and look at all our options to fill in the gaps.”

The estimated cost of the grade separation at the Union Pacific rails is around $55 million. ADOT tentative plan would provide up to $49 million.

The city has applied for a grant from Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER). If awarded it could receive anywhere between $1 million and $15 million. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to cut TIGER funding by 80 percent for fiscal year 2016. Construction on the SR 347 overpass is not expected to begin earlier than 2020.

The city also has partnerships with Pinal County and other groups that want to see the overpass come to fruition.

“There are always going to be avenues to get funding,” Price said. “If we’re awarded funding from ADOT, it’ll be a huge win. However, if we aren’t, we move forward. The project is real. It’s moving forward and it’s going to happen.”

As laid out in the tentative plan, ADOT would provide $5.5 million in FY2016 for rights of way, and another $7.3 million in FY2017. No money would come from ADOT in 2018 or 2019, but construction funds amounting to $36.2 million would come through in 2020.

If Maricopa does receive the funding, ADOT won’t be stuck with the full bill. The city and county will have to help fund the project, and any other funding the city receives will be deducted from ADOT’s total.

One issue that makes it difficult to get funding is the uncertainty of the total cost for the project. Without the final design in place, it is nearly impossible to approximate the cost of construction materials.

“The estimated cost is just that, a true estimate,” Price said. “Construction costs make it tricky. We believe it will be between $53 and $55 million when it’s completed, but the costs could vary. This could affect funding, because the city and ADOT might not be able to just provide [needed funds] at a moment’s notice.”