Pinal County officials push for safety improvements to Ironwood Road

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Jared Dillingham

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 12:49 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 3 at 5:58 PM

Map: Ironwood and Germann roads

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SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. -- The Pinal County sheriff, the county attorney and three state representatives are teaming up to push for major safety improvements to Ironwood Road between San Tan Valley and Apache Junction.

"Ironwood Road is one of the most traveled roadways by the citizens of San Tan Valley to access metro Phoenix by way of the U.S. 60," PCSO spokesman Tim Gaffney said in news release.

But it wasn't meant to be that way.

"This stretch of roadway was never designed for this volume of traffic and needs immediate safety improvements," County Attorney Lando Voyles said during a news conference Thursday.

"Over the past four years this section of roadway has anywhere from 57-95 collisions," Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said. "In the last four months alone, we have investigated three fatal roll-over accidents."

Pinal County officials would like to see a median divider of concrete or cable barriers between north and south traffic, break-down lanes of shoulders for north and south traffic and gradual slopes off of Ironwood Road.

"Serious and fatal collisions occur on this road that could be avoided if we construct emergency breakdown lanes and median dividers," Rep. T.J. Shope said.

Shope, along with Reps. Frank Pratt and Doug Coleman, said there's a fund for exactly these kinds of improvements. It's called the Highway User Revenue Fund. HURF money comes from taxes on gas, vehicle licenses and motor vehicle registration fees.

"These revenues are deposited in the Arizona Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) and are then distributed to the cities, towns and counties and to the State Highway Fund," reads an Arizona Department of Transportation Web page detailing its financial management services. "These taxes represent a primary source of revenues available to the state for highway construction, improvements and other related expenses."

For fiscal year 2013, Pinal County received just under $16.1 million in HURF money, according to documents from the ADOT Office of Financial planning.

"Currently, Pinal County is underfunded $1.3 million annually in HURF funding," according to a PCSO news release.

That $1.3 million is part of more than $115 million in HURF money goes to fund the Arizona Department of Public Safety. According to the HURF distribution formula, just over 50 percent of the revenue dollars collected went to the State Highway Fund.

Pinal County officials want that to change.

"We advocate for full restoration of HURF monies to counties and cities/towns and then for Pinal County to direct this additional money to make needed safety improvements to Ironwood Road," Pratt said.

"We encourage Gov. Brewer to fully fund DPS from the state's general fund and restore HURF monies to cities and counties; so much needed road improvements can be completed," Coleman said.

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