Pinal County and its growing population were a prominent part of Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State speech at the beginning of the 2022 legislative session as he called on lawmakers to hasten the widening of Interstate 10 and to invest in desalination and other projects that could boost Arizona’s water supplies over the next century.
In the televised address Jan. 10, Ducey made an example of the state’s commitment to widening Interstate 17 north of Phoenix between Anthem and Sunset Point and urged the legislators to turn their attention to the congested and dangerous four-lane section of freeway connecting Casa Grande to the metro area.
“A few years ago we got together and prioritized expansion of the I-17. Then, thanks to the leadership of Sen. T.J. Shope and Gov. Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community, we paved the way for a wider I-10, to improve movement and commerce between Tucson and Phoenix,” he said.
He added, “But that project is still scheduled several years out from now, and 94 visits as governor to southern Arizona will remind you how important this issue is. So, let’s finish the job. Our budget will invest more dollars to get the I-10 completion leap-frogged to the front of the priority list, ahead of schedule, connecting our entire state, north to south.”
The 26-mile stretch of I-10 is the only one between the Phoenix and Tucson areas that doesn’t have at least three lanes traveling in each direction and crosses the Gila River Indian Community’s reservation. It is used by some 50,000 vehicles every day, which frequently have to travel well below the speed limit or come to a screeching halt due to a collision.
Ducey’s budget proposal includes putting $400 million into widening 20 miles, which positions the state to be more competitive for federal grants that would complete funding for the project, according to the Governor’s Office.
The replacement and widening of the segment’s bridge across the Gila River is now fully funded in the state’s five-year transportation plan at $85.6 million (including $80 million in federal grants), with construction scheduled to begin in 2023.
“The completion of the I-10 highway expansion is a major priority that will substantially impact the residents and businesses of the City of Casa Grande,” said Mayor Craig McFarland. “With a fast-tracked project, safety will be improved and our economy will continue to grow.”
Ducey also prioritized buttressing the state’s water supplies as it faces its first-ever year with a shortage declaration on the Colorado River, asking lawmakers to dedicate another $1 billion to the state’s Drought Mitigation Fund over the next three years.
This pool supports grants to water users being affected by the decadeslong drought and is a crucial source of funding for Pinal County farmers who are drilling wells to replace the Colorado River water they relinquished as part of a statewide effort to leave more water in Lake Mead.
“With resources available in our budget, a relationship with Mexico that we’ve built and strengthened over the last seven years, and the need clear — what better place to invest more,” he said. He also asked lawmakers to pursue desalination and other technologies to expand Arizona’s water resources, setting the table for future water augmentation efforts.
Ducey’s full $15.8 billion spending plan for the 2023 fiscal year, released shortly after the speech, is subject to the ongoing legislative process usually completed late in the spring, though last year Ducey did not sign the budget into law until June 30, the day before fiscal year 2022 began.
1st Copa Cultural Night Market is March 25
The City of Maricopa is debuting a new special event this spring featuring the performing and visual arts and local culture, along with food and vendors.
The Copa Cultural Night Market is scheduled 6 to 10 p.m. March 25 at Copper Sky Regional Park, site of the Copa Glow Night Market and Balloon Festival and the Salsa Night Market.
The lineup of the multicultural community celebration will include artisans, cultural groups, a Native Grill & Wings Beer Garden, food trucks, vendors and shopping, along with demonstrations from Maricopa Friends of the Arts, which will also sponsor a separate art gallery.
The event’s Culture Row and time on the community stage will be devoted to local organizations, clubs, arts and performances that demonstrate something unique or educational with regard to their culture.
Prepaid parking tickets are available online for $7; parking is $10 on day of event. Free shuttles will be available from Maricopa High School, Maricopa Wells Middle School and Maricopa Elementary School.
For parking passes and more information visit www.copanightmarket.com.