SR 347 overpass clears hurdles; ADOT set to vote on funding Friday

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The city is closer than ever to realizing its goal of securing state funding to construct a highway overpass for State Route 347 at the Union Pacific Railroad crossing. The bridge would eliminate traffic delays and mitigate public safety concerns that exist with having 60 or more trains run through the middle of the city each day. 
 
The city received good news last month from the State Transportation Board and the Maricopa Association of Governments, achieving two key objectives in getting funding for the project. 
 
On May 28, the Maricopa Association of Governments Regional Council voted to place Maricopa’s grade separation project in its 2014-2018 Regional Transportation Improvement Plan.
 
Mayor Christian Price said approval from MAG is a precursor to getting a funded project into the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program. 
 
Teri Kennedy, MAG’s transportation improvement manager, said MAG looked at whether the overpass would conform to the region’s air quality budget and federal air quality standards. This is another prerequisite to getting into ADOT’s plan. 
 
MAG divided the project into segments, Kennedy said. In the first phase, the Amtrak train station would be relocated. Next, improvements would be made to the arterial roadway around SR 347.
 
There is also good news at the state level. In a May 20 study session, ADOT staff recommended the overpass be placed in the tentative Five-Year plan based on public comment and discussion with the board. ADOT spokeswoman Laura Douglas said the recommendation came after public hearings were held across the state, including Phoenix, Marana and Flagstaff. 
 
ADOT’s board is scheduled to vote on adding Maricopa’s grade separation project to its Five-Year plan at its June 13 meeting in Wilcox.
 
Since the recommendation schedules the construction phase of the project for 2020, not all the funding would be in ADOT’s 2015-2019 plan, Douglas said.
 
ADOT adopts a new Five-Year Program every year.
 
This means the construction phase of the project, if approved, would be “considered a placeholder at this point – the $36.2 million allocated for construction is not funded,” she said. “We cannot allocate funding for projects this far out.” 
 
During the State Transportation board’s study session on May 20, ADOT spokesman Dustin Krugel said the board discussed funding $18.3 million of the $55 million project over the next three fiscal years:
 
2015 – $5.5 million for design, $500,000 for right-of-way
2016 – $5.5 million for right-of-way
2017 – $7.3 million for right-of-way
 
“This has been a 10-year process to get to the point where we are now – with environmental studies work, (air quality) conformity work done, engineering, lobbying the Congressional delegation – now ADOT will potentially have it in their plan,” ADOT board member and former Maricopa mayor Kelly Anderson said.