Gila County Supervisors Announce $21 Million Tonto Creek Bridge Grant


 The federal Department of Transportation awarded Gila County $21 million to build the Tonto Creek Bridge. This Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant culminates two decades of work by Gila County to secure federal funds for the bridge connecting Tonto Basin to ‘east side’ residents across Tonto Creek . Though dry now, the Tonto Creek is prone to severe flooding, at times becoming the second largest river in Arizona. Critical to this award was the active support provided by the Gila County’s local and federal elected officials. 

Announcement of the BUILD grant was welcome news to Gila County’s District 2 Supervisor, Tim Humphrey, who represents Tonto Basin. “Since I’ve been in office, I’ve traveled to Washington, DC each year to push for funding of the Tonto Creek Bridge. Successful approval of our grant application shows the value of the effort we’ve been making for years to educate Arizona’s congressional delegation about how essential this project is. This will save lives -- and help create infrastructure.” 

Gila County appreciates the dedication of Senators Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema and Congressmen Paul Gosar and Tom O’Halleran to the health and safety of our residents. Their advocacy was critical to our BUILD grant award. Similarly, Governor Doug Ducey’s support was pivotal as well. Gila County’s Supervisors and staff met with U.S. Department of Transportation staff to scrutinize the grant process and evaluation criterion, finding ways to make Gila County’s grant proposal stand out. We appreciate their guidance. 

“We’ve been working on this for as long as I’ve served on the Board of Supervisors. I hope people will realize that so much credit is due to longtime Gila County staff who have written grant applications, overcome discouragement each year when big city projects got funded while ours didn’t, and kept on looking for ways to succeed,” said Tommie Martin, Gila County Board of Supervisors District 1.

“Public Works Director Steve Sanders and his team, and Steve Stratton before him, working with our consulting engineers at Kimley-Horn, along with Patty Power of Bose Public Affairs Group, and all of the past County management and elected Supervisors who helped put a spotlight on how this is essential, not only for public safety, but for working people who live in Tonto Basin, businesses in the area, and their future. There are so many people that I’m proud of, for bringing this home.”

 Gila County Board of Supervisors Chairman Woody Cline added:  “Our grant application pointed out that at least eight deaths have been attributed to Tonto Creek flooding over the past 25 years. Even in years without fatalities, it’s a major public safety problem for our Public Works Department and Sheriff’s Office. Dirt roads across the normally dry creek are barricaded and closed about 25 days out of each year because of the danger from high water. While every year it’s a public safety issue, it is also one thatprevents economic development, and limits residents access to schools and their jobs, to medicine and healthcare. Tonto Creek’s eastside residents aren’t totally marooned by floodwaters, but their only other alternative is a detour around 75-miles worth of dirt roads when creek crossings are barricaded and closed because of heavy rainfall or winter snowmelt.”

 Supervisor Humphrey summarizes, “Again, this represents years of effort - six months before the tragedy last Thanksgiving we asked Tonto Basin resident and documentary filmmaker Randy Roberson to interview residents and create a video showing the human element, our grant application was stronger this year with his drone footage of the creek, and powerful images such as videos of George Ewing driving kids across the creek in his 1966 retired military truck so they can get to school, videos like that, and testimony from people about life-saving medicine that had to be delivered by drone.”

Read more about the project, and view Gila County’s ‘human element’ video at