County Sees Bridge As New Revenue Source

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The money to build a bridge over Tonto Creek may not yet be in hand, but, "We're a lot closer than ever before," said Bryon Lake of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Lake was manager of the Corps study, which was completed this past September, for the bridge.

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Bryon Lake, Army Corps of Engineers

Meanwhile, once completed, the bridge could be a boon to Gila County, said Deputy County Manager John Nelson.

"There is a lot of land on the other side of the creek that could be developed, adding revenue to our tax rolls," Nelson said.

But, before Gila County sees any of that money, the funds for the bridge aren't done treading water.

Once the U.S. Senate and President George Bush give the proposal the rubber stamp, the funds will most likely be allocated to the Federal Highway Administration contrary to past announcements.

The fate of the money will then be up to that agency to decide whether the Corps of Engineers will begin the preliminary work on the project.

Rep. Rick Renzi outlined this work in an announcement, which appeared in the Aug. 2 edition of the Payson Roundup.

Lake said the Corps of Engineers is frequently involved in infrastructure projects of this kind for other agencies.

An earlier study for the bridge project was a "... special one-time look," Lake said, to develop the technical information needed to seek the $3 million now in the pipeline.

The $3 million will pay for public meetings on the design and location of the bridge; engineering; mapping; surveys; and structural analysis.

"It would also involve the environmental compliance with NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act), social and economic studies," Lake said.

Because of the agency's fiscal calendar, Lake said the agency will not know whether it will be handling the project until later in the year.

The actual construction of a bridge over Tonto Creek in the Tonto Basin area probably will not start until 2007, according to earlier project estimates.

"It's looking very good (though)," Lake said. "It's as positive an action as I've seen in the last 30 to 40 years."

The bridge money was included in the 2005-2006 transportation bill, approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 27.

"This new bridge is vital to the community, and will provide a big boost in safety to families who will not have to worry about road closures or unsafe conditions," Renzi said in his announcement.

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