CASA GRANDE — A week after five people were killed in separate crashes on Interstate 10 between Casa Grande and Chandler, the governor's staff ventured south to discuss possible funding for improvements along the stretch of freeway.
Included in the governor's proposed budget is $28 million to expand I-10, which includes funding for a new bridge over the Gila River on the Gila River Indian Community. The funding could also be used to expand the interstate to three lanes in either direction. This would be the last stretch of the major highway between Tucson and Phoenix to be widened.
Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland asked a representative of the governor's Strategic Planning and Budgeting Office at a meeting Tuesday morning how the state planned to fund the widening of the road, since most of the money in the governor’s budget for I-10 was earmarked for the Gila River bridge.
Mathew Gress, director of the budget office, said building the bridge would signal to the federal government that the state was in a position and committed to making improvements to the highway that could translate into support for federal funding.
An environmental study of the expansion is underway.
Gress said the governor is hoping the budget will pass both houses of the Arizona Legislature in the next couple of weeks.
Other items in the governor’s budget that may help Pinal County are:
- $35 million for the state School Facilities Board. The board funds repairs and construction of school buildings.
- $38 million in Safer Schools grants for more school resource officers, counselors and social workers for schools. The Casa Grande Elementary School District received funding for six new counselors from the program recently.
- Expanding the pilot program Project Rocket from three schools to all D and F rated schools in the state. The program is designed to close the gap between D and F schools and better performing schools in the state. Schools will have to show an improvement plan and make quarterly reports to the state.
- $35 million for A and B rated schools to encourage them to work with lower performing schools and continue their good work.
- $6 million to rural community colleges.
- $4 million to community colleges for the Arizona Advanced Technology Corridor and $11 million to community colleges for the STEM and Workforce programs. Both programs help community colleges develop programs to meet the needs of technology-based businesses.
- Additional funding to prevent driving under the influence and wrong way drivers.
- $34 million for foster care, child care, adoption, grandparents taking care of grandchildren and newborn health screenings.
- $6 million more for opioid abuse and addiction services.
- $1 million for rural tourism initiatives.