Tonto Creek

Area residents are split over the idea of a bridge across Tonto Creeks.

TONTO BASIN, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- As the community mourns the loss of the children swept away by floodwaters in Tonto Basin, residents are renewing their fight for a bridge. For years, many have pushed for a bridge to connect the communities on either side of Tonto Creek. If the water isn't flowing, it's business as usual. But they keep their eyes to the sky because rain means hazardous -- possibly deadly --conditions.

"We are all grieving; we're all grieving this," said George Ewing. He said he has never known a tragedy this immense in his years in Tonto Basin. We first introduced you to him in February, when he was driving kids across the creek in an Army truck so they could get to school safely. Many residents told us a bridge was desperately needed.

[WATCH: Tonto Basin residents divided over desire for bridge across Tonto Creek]

"I would like to see it be a priority, but, you know, you know how we are. It takes a tragedy to spark this back up," Ewing said.

The project manager told us at the time that they had the bridge design ready and a location picked out. They only needed funding for the $20 million project. 

"Plans and specifications for a bridge over Tonto Creek are complete, a Gila County official told us Monday. "The current estimated construction cost is $20,493,484. The length of the bridge is 1,981 feet. Gila County does not have funding to build the bridge. We have been applying for federal grant opportunities (TIGER and BUILD) since 2010, with the exception of 2013, when we were constructing a secondary bridge across Oak Creek in Tonto Basin that is part of the larger Tonto Bridge project."

[WATCH: Raw drone video of Rawlings' truck being hauled out of Tonto Creek]

State Sen. Sylvia Allen, who represents the area, says there's too much red tape, and the state needs to step in. "This is where I can start a rant on how ridiculous it is for us to get anything done," Allen told us over the phone. "It takes years."

And for some, it's more than just an inconvenience.

"My husband has end-stage emphysema," said Lucy Heisler. "Today, I had to call and order for a new oxygen concentrator for him. They're not sure when they can deliver that." Heisler lives on the east side of the creek, which is why we interviewed her over the phone. 

Just like we learned in February, Heisler told us her neighbors are split over the idea of a bridge. "They say a bridge will cause Tonto Basin will change," she said. "However, my feeling is, after this weekend, no bridge changed the face of Tonto Basin forever."

We reached out to the governor's office to ask what action they plan to take. "Our heart goes out to everyone affected by this tragedy," they said in a statement. "We're going to be working with federal and local partners to provide the necessary resources and relief."

Award-winning journalist Lindsey Reiser is a regular contributor in the evenings on CBS 5 News at 10 p.m.

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Lindsey Reiser anchors weekends for Arizona's Family and reports during the weekday for our prime time newscasts. Read more about Lindsey.

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