In March, when officials with the Arizona Department of Transportation started calling Maricopans who own land that is possibly in the path of the upcoming overpass, the message was different than it had been in previous contacts.
“They told me I had 12 months to be out of here,” said Tena Dugan, owner of NAPA Auto Parts on the corner of John Wayne Parkway and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.
But a new approach by engineers may change that, too.
Dugan said the earlier understanding was that she would have 18-months’ warning. However, a sense of expediency became part of the project when it landed a federal TIGER grant of $15 million.
“The TIGER grant is the only funding with a deadline attached,” Public Works Director Bill Fay said. He clarified the deadline attached to the grant pertains to signing a construction contract, not completion of the project.
Fay said while ADOT is basing its ongoing design work off Alternative H, there are engineering modifications being considered that could lower the cost, which is estimated at almost $50 million.
On top of that, designers are also trying to avoid as many homes and businesses as possible – even NAPA, which has always been the one business discussed as irretrievably in the way of the overpass.
“They are working to try to get people back out of that situation,” Fay said.
But Dugan’s message from ADOT was to find a new location for the business by April 1, 2017. With luck, she could get a 30-day extension.
“I told them 12 months is not doable in this town,” Dugan said. Because Maricopa is so young, “there is not another building to go into.”
ADOT is only at 15 percent design but is working on a concept that would also avoid the First Baptist Church, which Alternative H would destroy, though the new plan would impact its access. And the Amtrak station, which caused much of the overpass discussion in the first place, may not have to be moved at all.
“They are making a major effort not to relocate Amtrak,” Fay said. “It’s theoretically possible not to have to move it. For the sake of this project, I don’t think there’s a reason to move it.”
ADOT plans public meetings about the overpass in August and April to gather feedback on the most current concept for the overpass, according to ADOT spokesman Steve Elliott.
“Local input can help shape the project’s final design,” he said.
After the final design is developed, ADOT will determine any right-of-way needs. That process is expected to be complete by June 30, 2017.
“The project is currently scheduled to be advertised for bid in fall 2017,” Elliott said. “Right now, construction is scheduled to begin by late 2017 and end by late 2019.”
However, Fay’s estimate for completion is 2021 or 2022.
Maricopans wanting to see how a similar project is handled can look to an overpass ADOT is currently constructing on Bell Road over Grand Avenue and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks in Surprise. That project includes a full closure of the road for six to eight months. Road closure is not part of the plan in Maricopa. Elliott said the project team must still finalize a plan for accommodating traffic.
“As we have for Bell/Grand and other projects, ADOT will work with business owners to maintain access,” he said.
The Bell/Grand project has had its share of discontent among affected businesses, and there was even a late effort from some community members to stop it altogether.
That is not on Dugan’s mind, but she said she has hired an attorney. “I’m not trying to stop it or make a bunch of money off of it,” she said. “We’ve known since the beginning we were in the middle of it.”
She said she wants to be sure of her rights as an owner. “It would be good to have some peace of mind,” Dugan said.
This story appeared in the May issue of InMaricopa.