Verde Connect project gets $25 million jump start for new bridge over Verde River

The Verde River flows under the bridge at Mingus Avenue in Cottonwood. A new bridge will now be constructed between I-17 and the two bridges in Cottonwood as part of the new Verde Connect roadway project. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

The Verde River flows under the bridge at Mingus Avenue in Cottonwood. A new bridge will now be constructed between I-17 and the two bridges in Cottonwood as part of the new Verde Connect roadway project. VVN/Vyto Starinskas

You could just tell a sports metaphor was right on the tip of Yavapai County Supervisor Randy Garrison’s tongue.

“We just hit a home run with this project,” Garrison said Wednesday morning after receiving news that the county had been awarded a $25 million federal transportation grant for construction of a bridge over the Verde River to pave the way for a new east-west corridor in the Verde Valley.

It’s called the “Verde Connect” project, which will be a 5- to 7-mile stretch of two-lane road that will connect the northern Middle Verde Road area, the Yavapai-Apache Nation, and the northeastern portion of the Town of Camp Verde to State Route 260. Garrison expects the new road to intersect with Cornville Road and create a direct pass-through to Beaverhead Flat Road.

The $25 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant takes the Verde Connect project from a dream to a reality in a single day, Garrison explained. “It takes it from possibly never happening to probably being done in next four to six years,” the first-term county supervisor said. “A major project like this always starts out as a dream, and then a vision … with money always out there as an obstacle.”

In a news release from the county, Yavapai County Public Works Department Director Dan Cherry said, “This grant application was made in July 2018, following a frenetic assembly of information and written support from a wide range of communities, agencies, and dignitaries. The level of support received from those within the Verde Valley was humbling, to say the least, and undoubtedly played a big part in the success of this grant application.”

District 2 Yavapai County Supervisor Thomas Thurman said, “This project has been on my radar since I took over for Supervisor (Chip) Davis on the Verde Valley Transportation Planning Organization. It is remarkable that we are the only awardee of this grant in Arizona and I am thrilled to see the efforts of the Yavapai County Public Works Department, and Jacobs Engineering, paying off to the benefit and safety of the citizens of the Verde Valley and all of Yavapai County.”

According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao, “BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) transportation grants are major investments in road, rail, transit, and port projects that serve as a down payment on this administration’s commitment to America’s infrastructure.”

Of the total 851 BUILD Grant applications submitted to the USDOT (requesting $10.9 billion in funds), only 91 projects were awarded (totaling $1.5 billion). This project was the only one awarded in the State of Arizona.

This award starts the clock immediately on a project that is in the early planning stages, as the Design Concept Report is still underway. Yavapai County will be required to have funding obligated by Sept. 30, 2020, which requires meeting full environmental clearance prior to that date. The grant requires that all funds be fully expended by Sept. 30, 2025.

Cherry went on to say, “This is certainly a nod to the success of a long-term transportation planning program and the ability to garner widespread support for this project … The regional effort paid off immensely.”

Garrison echoed that sentiment: “The best thing is we would not have received this grant had it not been for the overwhelming support of every community in the Verde Valley and the Yavapai Apache Nation. The entire Verde Valley made an overwhelming statement to the federal government on the strong need for this project.”

The next steps in the project include:

• Continue to work with the project’s Technical Advisory Committee to complete the corridor alternatives analysis as part of the design concept report that is currently ongoing, and select a preferred corridor for the project alignment.

• Hold additional public meetings associated with the finalist alternatives and preferred corridor and seek public input in the selection process.

• Accelerate efforts with the county’s consultant on the project, to complete the environmental assessment and other documentation necessary as part of the National Environmental Policy Act requirements and participate in public outreach.

• Complete the development of project construction plans.

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