Meeting Friday in Holbrook, the State Transportation Board voted to adopt the Arizona Department of Transportation’s 2017-2021 Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program.
On the plan, a long-sought railroad overpass on State Route 347 in Maricopa will move forward thanks to a $15 million federal TIGER grant and $15 million local contribution in addition to ADOT’s $19 million commitment.
The project’s goal is to alleviate traffic backups at the Union Pacific Railroad crossing by replacing the existing at-grade intersection with a grade separation. Construction is planned to start in fiscal year 2017.
For Mayor Christian Price, the vote was a “Phew!” moment. He has been attending Transportation Board meetings for months to keep the project at the forefront of members’ minds. He was in Holbrook Friday for the vote.
“I’m excited,” Price said. “It’s been 13 years of work. That’s how you put teamwork together.”
Though various ADOT and city officials have hedged on the start date for construction, Price said ground would have to be broken sometime in 2017 because of the time mandates of the TIGER grant. And construction is not the beginning of the project. A plan for redirecting traffic from Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway and city streets in the Heritage District is an important element.
“We have to start getting right of way and moving things around first,” Price said.
Because of additional funding available through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, ADOT will be able to move forward on a quicker timeline with four major projects that will improve key commerce corridors: widening Interstate 10 in Pinal County from State Route 87 to Picacho and from Earley Road to Interstate 8, and widening two stretches of US 93 between Wickenburg and Interstate 40.
“Major freight corridors that connect Arizona to Mexico and large neighboring U.S. markets will benefit from key expansion projects in this Five-Year Program,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “Improvement projects along some of Arizona’s busiest corridors will not only provide better mobility but help enhance trade, commerce and economic development.”
Once the two I-10 projects are complete, ADOT will have reached its goal of widening the entire stretch of I-10 between Casa Grande and Tucson to a six-lane divided highway.
Other projects programmed for funding include improving State Route 189 in Nogales to enhance the flow of commerce between the port of entry and Interstate 19.
The program approved Friday meets the agency’s goal of $260 million per year dedicated to preservation.
The State Transportation Board’s approval of the Five-Year Program, which is updated annually, followed a call for public comment in March and three public hearings. In general, projects begin as part of the agency’s long-range visioning process, move into a 20-year plan and a six- to 10-year development program and then become part of the Five-Year Program, which is developed by working closely with local planning organizations and community leaders to identify projects that are ready to build or design.
Funding for the Five-Year Program is generated by the users of transportation services, primarily through gasoline and diesel fuel taxes and the vehicle license tax. Both the Maricopa and Pima county regions have independent revenue streams established through voter-approved sales tax increases that allow for more expansion projects to take place.