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Arizona might finally widen troubling stretch of I-10

The stretch between Chandler and Casa Grande is notorious for bumper-to-bumper traffic. A bill in the Legislature would provide $400 million for widening the freeway

PHOENIX — The stretch of Interstate 10 running through Pinal County has long been known as a bottleneck that's rife for slow-moving traffic and dangerous crashes. 

Two motorists died in October in a fiery crash after a truck crossed the I-10 median near milepost 188. A woman and two young children were killed in 2018 on the freeway near Queen Creek Road.

Aside from the tragedies, I-10 is the source of complaints from the many commuters who must rely on the freeway to get to the Valley each day.

Senate Bill 1239 attempts to open up the two-lane pathway by appropriating $400 million from the state's general fund to widen I-10 between Chandler and Casa Grande. 

Republican Sen. T.J. Shope, whose district is in Pinal County, introduced the bill and said he's spent many years lobbying to improve the freeway at the Legislature. 

Shope said the freeway has become his main priority and he feels like a "broken record" every time he mentions the backed-up traffic on I-10. 

"That is the way it is on a daily basis," Shope told the House Transportation Committee last week. 

The bill appears to be advancing through the Legislature with widespread support on both sides of the aisle.

It passed through the Arizona Senate last month with only one dissenting vote from a Republican legislator. Last week, the House Transportation Committee unanimously approved the bill and another committee greenlit the legislation on Wednesday.  

Legislators have said improving the freeway is needed now as big manufacturers like Lucid Motors begin attracting new residents to Pinal County.

"It needs to be resolved," said state Rep. Teresa Martinez, R-Casa Grande, who voted to advance the bill through the House.

During a committee meeting last week, Martinez said her father died in a car crash several years ago, so she's motivated to make the freeway safer for her constituents. 

"It is inadequate at its best," Martinez said last week. 

If the $400 million is appropriated, officials from the Arizona Department of Transportation have told legislators they would still need some time to complete design work and reports before the project is "shovel-ready." 

Credit: William Pitts
A deadly crash on I-10 near Casa Grande in October 2021.

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