MARICOPA — A bill for $35 million dollars approved by the state legislature for building an overpass on State Route 347 at Riggs Road.
Dale Wiebusch, Intergovernmental Affairs Director, and Todd Baughman, Policy Development Group, presented a report on the Arizona State Legislature’s 2021 Regular Session, with the 347 overpass being the most discussed topic during the city council meeting.
“This is huge,” Wiebusch said. “This is gigantic.”
According to the last statistics Wiebusch analyzed, he found nine fatalities at the SR 347-Riggs intersection in the past two years. He didn’t count all the other accidents, just the fatalities.
They used that figure in their testimony, which had a “large impact” on the legislative decision.
“It is a privilege to represent you all at the State Capitol,” Baughman said. “When we meet with legislatures down there they are appreciative of how you all run the city, so it allows myself and Dale to be able to go in and have conversations about issues that are important to the city of Maricopa.”
Mayor Christian Price thanked Wiebusch and Baughman, the other council members and State Rep. Bret Roberts for all their hard work this year and for helping make the bill for the SR 347 overpass, calling it “a huge step in the right direction.”
“We’re not there yet, but we’re making huge strides,” Price said.
The council is hoping for a positive outcome from the Goldwater vs. Prop. 416, 417 Arizona Supreme Court case in Pinal County, which will decide the legality of a new transportation tax. The city of Maricopa has been collecting money and currently has around $60-70 million ready to build things, but it’s all held in reserve until the outcome of the court case.
If the result is positive, then they have $30 million of that $60 million allocated towards SR 347, along with the $35 million and $1 million from the city, making it $66 million toward fixing the highway.
Price said it sounds like a lot of money, but they need to raise a total of $200 million to complete the three phases of the project. The money that’s been saved up can be used as leverage to show the legislature Maricopa has this going for them, which could encourage the state to help.
For the SR 347 overpass that was completed in town, using the saved funds and receiving a federal grant helped got it built in a timely manner, though it took 15 years to get there.
“It helps us when we go to those agencies in charge and leverage in a way that we could never have done if we just showed up with our hand out, because everybody shows up with their hand out,” Price said. “There’s a lot of issues and a lot of need, but not enough resources to go around.”