State Route 347 and Riggs Road [Victor Moreno]

A $35 million appropriation for a State Route 347 overpass at Riggs Road is part of the state’s $12.8 billion spending plan, with most of the budget bills approved by the legislature and headed for the governor’s signature.

State Representative Bret Roberts of Maricopa, D-11, introduced the appropriation in January.

It represents a significant effort to speed a multi-year, multi-pronged effort to increase safety and reduce congestion on the four-lane highway, including widening to six lanes and making improvements to intersections at Casa Blanca Road and the cement plant.

The appropriation, which designates $25 million for design study and construction of the overpass, $2.5 million for environmental study and $7.5 million for design and easements, will be moved from the General Fund to the Arizona Department of Transportation in Fiscal Year 2022.

In mid-May, Roberts told InMaricopa that if the appropriation survived the budget process, it was “good news for Maricopa.”

Earlier, he said he had focused on the Riggs Road project because of the number of serious accidents and fatalities at the intersection.

In 2019, there were 308 traffic accidents on SR 347 between I-10 and State Route 84, according to data from the Arizona Department of Transportation. Four deaths and more than 140 injuries were reported in those incidents.

Of the 308 accidents, 57 occurred in the vicinity of milepost 185, near the Riggs Road intersection. In the past two years, there have been nine fatalities at the intersection.

Roberts has said growth in Maricopa, and the resulting increase in traffic, will only make the problem worse in the coming years.

The City of Maricopa has committed $1 million toward the project and the Gila River Indian Community has signaled its buy-in for improvements on SR 347, which runs through its land.

POL Bret Roberts
State Rep. Bret Roberts of Maricopa surveys traffic at State Route 347 and Riggs Road. Photo by Merenzi Young

On Thursday, the House approved a $1.9 billion income tax cut that primarily benefits the wealthy as majority Republicans pushed through key pieces of a state budget plan opposed by Democrats, the Associated Press reported.

The House joined the Senate in approving the tax cuts and another bill shielding high-earning taxpayers from the effects of Prop 208, a 3.5% tax surcharge approved by voters in November to provide additional funding for education.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey is expected to sign the spending plan, the AP said.