Much-needed area bridge may get state help - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Much-needed area bridge may get state help

March 12th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Much-needed area bridge may get state help

By Cecilia Chan
Staff Writer

Building a bridge over Gilbert Regional Park to connect Ocotillo Road will mean faster response times for police and fire in the southern portion of town.

The town has budgeted the $53.8-million project in its capital improvement plan and may get some help from the state Legislature.

Senate Bill 1681 would provide $7.9 million toward the project and is being sponsored by Sen. Tyler Pace, R-Mesa.

“The $7.9 million requested will allow us to complete the design, preconstruction and land acquisition to stay on schedule with this important regional project,” Mayor Brigette Peterson testified Feb. 9 before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“This project will complete an important regional connection to our neighboring communities in Chandler, Queen Creek and beyond. It will address regional long-term transportation needs, alleviating traffic congestion and allowing for further growth and community development through the Southeast Valley.”

The bill was approved 9-1 with Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, voting against it, saying the project was the town’s responsibility.

The bill now goes to a caucus hearing, not yet scheduled

Ocotillo Road, a regional east-west arterial, is currently divided by a number of natural barriers such as the Queen Creek Canal, East Maricopa Floodway and a Roosevelt Water Conservation District canal.

A portion of the 272-acre regional park also runs sits in the middle.

The 545-foot bridge will have four travel lanes along with bicycle lanes and pedestrian pathways on both sides, according to Peterson.

“Most importantly this project will have a significant positive impact on public safety and the ability to respond to emergencies in the area,” Peterson told the senators. “In Gilbert we have a long-established goal of reaching all emergencies within a four-minute response time.”

Peterson said the town built Fire Station No. 9 three years ago to help address the longer response times in south Gilbert. The fire house is situated on Ocotillo Road less than a quarter mile from where it ends.

“However, Fire Station 9’s response area remains Gilbert’s longest at five minutes and 31 seconds,” Peterson said.

“Construction of the bridge would reduce Fire Station 9’s average response time and substantially reduce the response times to neighbors immediately west of the floodway,” she said.

A four-minute response provides the best opportunity for fire crews to improve the health outcome of patients and effectively and safely provide suppression and lifesaving activities during fire incidents, according to town spokeswoman Jennifer Harrison. 

 She said response times also will improve for police.

“If an officer was at Ocotillo and Higley and received a call for service at 2700 E. Ocotillo, roughly a half mile if the bridge existed, it would take Gilbert Police 7-8 minutes to go around the basin to get to the location,” Harrison said.

The construction cost for the bridge is included in a proposed transportation and infrastructure bond that Council plans to put on the November ballot.

A portion of the construction cost also would come from system development fees, Harrison said.

If the senate bill fails, she said the entire project design and construction would be paid for with a combination of development fees and the transportation and infrastructure bond, which is how it is currently proposed in the capital improvement plan.

The entire project is expected to take four years with contract awards for design anticipated for the end of April beginning of May, Harrison said.

This would be followed by an 18-month design timeline, six months of rights-of-way acquisition and 24 months of construction, she added.

Peterson at the hearing also noted that the bridge would increase access to the regional park, which is a destination recreation spot with an amphitheater, a lake, trails and numerous sport courts and fields.

She said the town through a partnership with the Maricopa County Flood Control District is maximizing the public use and benefit of critical flood-control infrastructure with the regional park.

“The Town of Gilbert has invested over $35 million to date to transform these single-use flood control facilities into something that beautifies and enriches the community and region,” she said.