After missing a federal grant, Arizona lawmakers look to fully fund I-10 widening project
After the Federal Highway Administration passed over Arizona’s bid for a $360 million grant to widen Interstate 10 between Chandler and Casa Grande, Republican state lawmakers are proposing the state not wait for federal funds and instead pay for the project solely with state tax dollars.
Lawmakers had eyed the federal MEGA grant as providing the final funding piece to the project, which lawmakers last year dedicated $400 million to.
An official reason that the widening project wasn’t among the projects that received MEGA grants wasn’t given, though U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly’s office told officials in Pinal County that it needs to include more “intermodal transportation projects” to pass muster with the FHA.
But instead of retooling the application for federal grant money, GOP lawmakers instead want the state to add $360 million in funding for the project. The Senate Transportation and Technology Committee on Monday unanimously approved Senate Bill 1065, which does just that.
Widening the busy highway, which connects the metro Phoenix and Tucson areas and is a major corridor for cross-country shipping, would be a boon for both commerce and safety.
A seven-vehicle crash killed 2 people and injured 8 on I-10 near Casa Grande in 2021.
“I’ve never not seen an accident when driving to the capital on I-10, “said Senate Minority Leader Raquel Terán said. “This is about public safety and is way overdue.”
Tony Smith, CEO of Pinal Partnership, a nonprofit organization that advocates for economic growth, said traffic delays and congestion on I-10 likely cost the state economy more than the $360 million price tag of completing the widening project.
“I fear that the longer it exists, the longer we all suffer,” he told lawmakers Monday.
Although Arizona’s attempt to receive federal funding for this project was unsuccessful, legislators have no intention of backing down.
“Unfortunately we didn’t get that federal funding, but I’m delighted that we’re still trying,” Terán said during the committee meeting.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.