The long-awaited widening of Interstate 10 between Casa Grande and Chandler is finally within view after an infusion of state funding, with construction now scheduled to begin with the replacement of the bridges over the Gila River next year and finish sometime in 2026.
The state Legislature approved a $400 million appropriation for the project included in Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget proposal, almost unanimously supporting a bill sponsored by state Rep. T.J. Shope of Coolidge and signed into law by Ducey May 4.
This gave the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) just enough time to apply for a $300 million federal grant through the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, the landmark $1.2 trillion infrastructure package approved by Congress last fall.
The state’s funding commitment is expected to make the project a strong contender for the federal money, but it is expected to move forward even if the application doesn’t succeed. ADOT spokesman Doug Nick said: “The project isn’t contingent solely on that $300 million-plus of federal dollars, but it certainly would be a welcome addition to that.”
Without it, construction on the widening could begin a year later and some of the anticipated improvements to that section of I-10 might not be included, Nick said.
“The same team that prepared that grant, the engineers, are working on contingencies in the event that money does not come through, that we would still be able to maximize our resources so we could do as much of the project as we could,” Nick said.
“Really, the most important part is the lane expansion, getting a third travel lane in each direction. So contingencies would be developed so at least that much of it happens.”
The recently approved state funding comes on top of about $290 million in local funding for the Maricopa County portion of the 26-mile segment and the bridge widening.
Segments of I-10 between Casa Grande and Tucson have been widened over the last decade until the 26 miles traversing the Gila River Indian Community were the last stretch with just two lanes traveling in each direction, until more recent negotiations with the Community produced a breakthrough.
Rapid growth in central Pinal County has added to the traffic between Arizona’s two largest cities, and backups and serious and fatal crashes on the freeway are all too frequent.
Casa Grande mayor Craig McFarland, who had been advocating for the project for the last six years, said he’s “optimistic” about ADOT’s application succeeding at the federal level after speaking to officials in Washington, D.C. during a recent trip.
“I’ve had some good conversations with the Commerce Department in D.C. I also have had good conversations with Sen. (Kyrsten) Sinema and Sen. (Mark) Kelly; they’re both very keenly aware of the need in what we’re doing and pledged to help us wherever they can,” he said.
He added, “I’m not sure that a lot of people are shovel-ready or have matching funds to request, so we’re hoping we’ll be one of the first.” McFarland said residents will need to be patient once construction starts, and should contact ADOT with any suggestions they have for helping it go more smoothly.
There still are a few more steps to complete this year, Nick said, including completion of the required environmental assessment reports and a related public hearing expected to be held in September.