Bret Roberts (submitted photo)

A state lawmaker from Maricopa is taking a direct route to fund an overpass on State Route 347 across Riggs Road.

Rep. Bret Roberts (R-District 11) is the primary sponsor of House Bill 2802. The brief text of the bill asks for the allocation of $35 million for the construction. If passed, the money would be appropriated from the general fund for fiscal year 2020-21.

Roberts cited the continuing growth of Maricopa, and the projected population of 124,000 in 20 years, as his reasons for taking the matter to the Legislature.

“With such high growth comes extreme congestion and safety concerns for commuters to the Phoenix Valley who only have a single main route to access the I-10,” he stated in a news release. “Frequent accidents along Riggs Road and State Route 347 impact more than 40,000 daily commuters who are forced to backtrack through Casa Grande to access I-10, sometimes doubling their commute time.”

At the same time, Pinal County is studying solutions for the high-volume roadway as Maricopa Association of Governments builds a coalition that includes Arizona Department of Transportation, Gila River Indian Community, City of Maricopa and Pinal County. Funding for any resulting improvements is being collected through the county’s Prop 417 by the Regional Transportation Authority. That recently won a suit in appellate court but awaits the possibility of an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

While the completion of the South Mountain Freeway took some traffic off Riggs Road, collisions continue on SR 347.

HB2802 is co-sponsored by Rep. Mark Finchem and Sen. Vince Leach, both from District 11, and Rep. T.J. Shope and Sen. Frank Pratt of District 8.

“With 11 serious injuries and nine fatalities taking place in this area over the past three years, it is imperative that we take action to ensure the safety of those using this route into the future,” Roberts said. “These funds will be dedicated to the start of fixing the life thread to the City of Maricopa and the SR 347 widening project.”