MARICOPA — With frustrations continuing to swell over the traffic and safety problems that plague State Route 347, the public finally got its first look at the very early stages of plans on how to solve them.
The Maricopa Association of Governments held an open house Tuesday to reveal a scoping study that is taking place to improve SR 347. Those who attended were able to speak face to face with officials leading the study while getting a visual representation of what the group is looking to address.
“We’re hoping that they’ll be able to express the problems that the roadway causes them — the delays, the frustration — because we need to hear that,” said David Maestas, transportation policy manager for the city of Maricopa. “With that information, we can focus on how to improve it and get the most efficiency out of the money that’s spent on it.”
The study encompasses all of State Route 347 from the intersection with Interstate 10 to Peters and Nall Road south of Maricopa. It looks at three different segments of the highway — from I-10 to the Pinal-Maricopa county line, from the county line to the northern city limits, and then to Peters and Nall.
Each of the segments has its own challenges and potential solutions, Maestas said, and they are thus being studied on their own.
The ultimate goal is to find solutions that will improve travel time, mobility, safety, land compatibility and environmental outcomes while respecting stakeholder interests and maintaining current easements.
The goal by the end of November is to have formulated a list of recommendations based on public feedback and the findings of the experts involved in the project. Those will likely include broad solutions for the highway as a whole, along with “spot solutions” such as possibly putting a grade separation (such as an overpass) at the intersection of Riggs Road.
Should the Maricopa City Council approve the list of recommendations in December, the plan would also have to be approved by the Gila River Indian Community, since much of the work will be taking place on its land. Then, MAG can move forward with conducting engineering, design and environmental studies.
From there, it’s about getting funding for the project. There actually has been a significant amount of money already collected by Pinal County under the Regional Transportation Authority tax approved by voters in 2016. However, that tax revenue is currently blocked from being spent following a ruling that it is in fact illegal. Should it be cleared in court, progress on the stretch from the city limits to the county line could actually move fast, since the SR 347 project is in the first phase for the RTA.
Work on the other side of the county line to I-10 would be up to funding that is available under MAG and Maricopa County.
“We’re actually in a good place right now,” Maestas said. “There’s been a lot of frustration for a lot of different people, because we’ve been trying to launch this study, but you can imagine the difficulty in trying to improve a roadway that’s out of your jurisdiction. So I give credit to MAG for putting themselves in a leadership position and getting this moving forward.”