PHOENIX — In an effort to stay competitive in the global market, the Arizona Department of Transportation is seeking nearly $70 million in federal discretionary grants for projects that will drive Arizona’s economy, while promoting interstate commerce and trade with Mexico.
ADOT submitted three federal grant applications in the sixth round of the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants last week. All three critical projects would create a substantial number of jobs for Arizonans, while ensuring Arizona remains a vital trading corridor with its port neighbors to the west (Long Beach and Los Angeles) and the south (Mexico).
ADOT is seeking $35 million for a rural/urban highway planning grant for the Interstate 11 and Intermountain West Corridor Study Environmental Impact Statement, which would facilitate the necessary environmental assessments for this Key Commerce Corridor — a corridor that is expected to bring enormous economic and safety benefits for Arizona’s communities, tourists and commerce connections.
Other 2014 projects for TIGER grant consideration include $24.5 million to rehabilitate a bridge approaching the Virgin River Gorge on Interstate 15 in Mohave County in the northwest corner of Arizona between the Nevada and Utah state lines. While most Arizonans have never driven on this remote stretch of highway, I-15 is critical to California, Nevada and Utah as a freight corridor.
ADOT also submitted a $9.5 million grant to improve Arizona-California border crossing times at the Ehrenberg Port of Entry on Interstate 10 in La Paz County. The upgraded port of entry will ensure safer travel on state roadways through enforcement of state and federal size, weight and safety regulations for commercial vehicles.
Since 2009, Congress has dedicated more than $4.1 billion in TIGER grant funding for road, rail, transit and port projects, including $600 million for the current fiscal year, which is available to all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
During the first five rounds of the TIGER program, which began in 2009, Arizona has received funding for three projects.
In 2013, the Port of Tucson received a $5 million grant in the fifth round of TIGER funding to provide higher speed access between the Union Pacific mainline and the Port of Tucson’s International Intermodal yard.
In 2012, ADOT successfully secured a $21.6 million grant to improve Virgin River Gorge Bridge No. 6 on I-15 (milepost 16) in the fourth round of TIGER funding. That rehabilitation project is the first of the eight bridges along the I-15 corridor that has been identified for repair. The $27 million project launched this spring and is slated to take up to two years to complete.
In 2010, the Tucson won federal funding for a $63 million modern streetcar project during the first round of TIGER grants.
The following are the projects that ADOT submitted for TIGER grant consideration this year:
- I-11 and Intermountain West Corridor Study ($35 million grant; total cost $60 million): Although the Corridor Concept Report is expected to be released this summer to finalize the purpose and need, corridor recommendations and implementation requirements for the I-11 and Intermountain West Corridor, no funding sources have been identified for carrying out the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, including an Environmental Impact Statement. ADOT is seeking TIGER grant funding to develop the environmental document for this critical corridor that would run from border to border in Arizona. The environmental report would analyze potential infrastructure investments along the I‑11 and Intermountain West Corridor in Arizona to improve north-to-south mobility in the state, enhance trade corridors, and connect rural communities to jobs, schools and employment centers. The corridor would be more than 400 miles long, passing through rural and urban areas of Arizona.
- I-15 Virgin River Bridge No. 1 ($24.5 million grant; total cost $35 million): This I-15 bridge (milepost 10) is located in the Virgin River Gorge and serves as a vital link between the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and beyond. The bridge, built in 1964, is rated as “structurally deficient,” meaning it is safe, but requires repair or improvement. While most Arizonans have never driven on this remote 29-mile stretch of highway, it is a critical commercial trade route in North America used by more than 1.4 million trucks annually. Closures or even restrictions to this route would result in detours of 250 miles for heavier trucks, and nearly 600 miles for the triple-trailer combinations. The rehabilitation project would include the replacement of the bridge’s superstructure (girders, deck and railings), as well as widening the narrow roadway.
- I-10/Ehrenberg Port of Entry Improvements, Phase II ($9.5 million grant; total cost $13.6 million): The project would reconstruct the facility, which was built in 1976, and provide an effective electronic screening system to better facilitate the safe movement of commercial truck traffic into Arizona. The port of entry is located in western Arizona along I-10, approximately three miles from the California state line. As one of the nation’s primary transportation corridors, I-10 provides a safe and expeditious route for commercial truck traffic to deliver goods from international sea ports in Southern California to Arizona and across the nation. The project is being built in two phases. The first phase is expected to start late this year.
TIGER grants are awarded to transportation projects that have a significant national or regional impact. Projects are chosen for their ability to contribute to the long-term economic competitiveness of the nation, improve the condition of existing transportation facilities and systems, increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the safety of U.S. transportation facilities, and enhance the quality of living and working environments of communities through increased transportation choices and connections. The U.S. Department of Transportation gives priority to projects that are expected to create and preserve jobs and stimulate increases in economic activity.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to announce the recipients of the Fiscal Year 2014 TIGER grants later this year.