Arizona would have the money to widen a 26-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between Chandler and Casa Grande without federal aid, if a bill that received unanimous approval Monday passes the full Legislature.
Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, is suggesting $360 million in state funds to backfill an expected rejection by federal officials of Arizona's request for a grant of the same amount.
The $360 million in state funds would come in addition to the $400 million lawmakers approved last year for the project to widen the two-lane freeway to three lanes in each direction.
Last year's allocation was built on the belief that Arizona would likely receive matching money from the federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which Congress approved and President Joe Biden signed last year.
However, Shope said the state has since learned informally that the project would not make the cut as it only creates transit options for motor vehicles.
His plan, in Senate Bill 1065, would dip into the state's $2 billion surplus to cover the $360 million that otherwise would have come from the federal government.
The bill passed its first hurdle Monday with a unanimous vote from the Senate Transportation and Technology Committee.
Shope said he expects the $360 million ask will receive a similar warm welcome when it comes before the budget-setting Appropriations Committee.
"Last year we sold the $400 million with only two 'no' votes in the entire Legislature," he said. "I think anyone who has driven that 26-mile stretch of freeway knows how bad it is."
For subscribers:Arizona to spend $400M on project to widen Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson
Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek and chairman of the Legislature's conservative Freedom Caucus, voted for the expenditure.
"It's our responsibility," he said of the state. "It's a major corridor. But it needs to be built in the traditional Arizona way."
By that, he meant strictly car lanes, with no allowances for multi-modal options such as bike paths.
Why feds may reject I-10 widening project
Lawmakers said they were told informally that the project's lack of transportation options other than just freeway lanes hurt its chances in the competitive grant process. There is no official notification of the rejection, or the reasons for it, although Shope said he was told by U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly's office that the notice could come as early as Tuesday.
Shope said the combined $760 million in state funds would cover the project's cost. If the federal government later decides to fund a share of the project, Shope wrote his bill to allow the state to reclaim its investment.
He said the portion of the project that would widen the bridge over the Gila River is ready to start, and the rest of the project could meet the original completion date of 2026.
ADOT has gradually widened the freeway between Phoenix and Tucson, with this 26-mile stretch the remaining link.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Widening I-10 from Chandler to Casa Grande could cost Ariz. $360M more
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