A proposal to build a bridge that would cross the rural Tonto Creek in south central Arizona may be on its way to receiving vital state funding.
A bill sponsored by Arizona State Representative David Cook has now won the approval of the legislature’s House Appropriations Committee, asking $15 million for the bridge’s construction.
A separate measure, sponsored by State Senator Sylvia Allen asking for that same amount, has also been introduced in the upper chamber.
The move to build a bridge at the Tonto Basin, some 70 miles northeast of Phoenix, has for the better part of decade been regarded as a necessity due to the nearly one dozen people who have died attempting to make it across the creek during times of high floodwaters.
But in recent months, the project has taken on a new urgency as a result of the death of three children who lost their lives when the military-style vehicle they were riding in got stuck in the creek’s rising waters.
Two adults and four other children in that vehicle survived.
Running north to south through both Coconino and Gila counties, the creek is just over 70 miles long. The bridge would be built in the Tonto Basin at the Bar X Crossing.
Gila County officials say design work on the bridge has already been completed, while more than $3 million has been set aside for a project that could eventually cost as much as $20 million to build.
The $18 million requested by Representative Cook would come out of the state’s general fund to be used by the Arizona Department of Transportation for the bridge’s construction.
Both funding bills are expected to work their way through their respective chambers well before the State Legislature is scheduled to conclude its regular session on April 25.
By Garry Boulard