MARICOPA — The crowd cheered as a train with its horn blaring went under the new State Route 347 overpass, a 16-year project that has finally come to its final stage.
The heat did not stop Maricopa city officials; federal, state and Arizona Department of Transportation officials; school board members; and residents of Maricopa from celebrating the official ribbon cutting for the SR 347 overpass. The celebration was accompanied by the Maricopa High School marching band.
The overpass officially opened to the public at 5 a.m. on Monday.
“This is the day that is going to transform Maricopa,” said Mayor Christian Price.
The roadway congestion caused by the trains is soon to be history, and those living on the south side of the tracks will now have a much smoother ride into town.
Price explained that he and former Mayor Kelly Anderson had come up with a plan to move the project forward, gathering the resources and people to execute the plan.
Anderson, a former chairman of the State Transportation Board who supported the project at both local and state levels, was also present at the ribbon cutting.
“It’s surreal,” Anderson said. He thanked the Ak-Chin Indian Community for its support in coming together to support the overpass. “There’s an ADOT saying, ‘Now, it’s the Maricopa model.’ You bring your own money to the model, and that’s what we did here.”
Price addressed concerns that he heard from some residents throughout the process that building the overpass might not be worth all the trouble construction was causing.
“If you really want great economic development, you have to have phenomenal transportation corridors,” Price said. “And this is one for Maricopa.”
Each of the City Council members also spoke on the success of the project, thanking everyone for their patience and acknowledging the collaboration and the dedication of those who were involved in the making.
“I could not miss that train going underneath this overpass,” said Vice Mayor Henry Wade.
Minor construction will continue on the overpass, although it will not affect access to the roadway itself. The major work left to be done will continue for the next few months on other roads affected by the overpass, including the current and soon-to-be-old alignment of SR 347 that will be renamed Maricopa Road.
For the next three months beginning Monday, the portion of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway that connects with SR 347 will be closed up to Plainview Street, forcing traffic coming from Casa Grande to instead use Honeycutt Road.
Traffic on the stretch of the current SR 347 between Hathaway Avenue and MCG Highway will be restricted to two lanes in each direction. That, and the other parts of the current SR 347 that will remain open when the new highway alignment opens Monday, is being renamed Maricopa Road.