Gila River Indian Community Receives $93M DOT Grant for Road Infrastructure

SACATON, AZ – Secretary Pete Buttigieg notified Congress that he will announce a $93 million grant to widen the stretch of the I-10 located entirely within the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC).

The grant award is the culmination of an extensive year-long effort to highlight the critical need for this grant funding to improve the safety, conditions, access, and reliability of this stretch of the I-10 for community members.

When a prior federal grant submission failed last year to receive funding in the last cycle of grant awards, GRIC Governor Stephen Roe Lewis requested a debrief of the prior grant and the reasons the grant was not among those funded. As a result of that feedback, Governor Lewis insisted on a stronger role for the community in developing the new grant proposal, which resulted in a joint grant submission by the community and the state. State Governor Kathy Hobbs was an instrumental partner in the effort, supporting the community’s involvement from the beginning. The new grant submission not only emphasized the safety needs for the community and the up to 126,000 vehicles who use that stretch of the I-10 each day, but also addressed the long-standing equity associated with the only unimproved portion of the I-10 being the section contained within the community.

For many years, this portion of the I-10 has been unreliable, unsafe, and has stretched the resources of the community’s first responders due to the high number of accidents and fatalities in what is often described as the “fatal funnel.” The consistent strain on the community’s families, students, elders and employees led to an aggressive advocacy push by the community to ensure funding is received and this stretch can be widened to match the roadways off the reservation.

As a result, in what may be a historic first, Governor Lewis and Governor Hobbs made the grant proposal the top infrastructure priority for the state and the community and traveled to Washington, D.C., together to present the joint proposal to the White House and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. The partnership of Governor Katie Hobbs with Governor Lewis was a key component of describing the impact of the grant to the entire state.

The community also worked hand-in-hand with members of the Congressional delegation. In addition, the state legislature played a key role in securing this grant funding by committing a state match, which will make up the remainder of the total cost of the project when combined with funding set aside by the Maricopa Association of Governments.

“I am so proud of the community’s aggressive effort to ensure that this long-neglected stretch of the I-10 will be widened and improved to enhance the safety and reliability of this roadway for our members and all those who travel through the community,” said Governor Lewis. “It will not only improve this vital stretch of highway in our state; it will improve the community’s access to it by building a new intersection at Seed Farm Road, connecting our government services directly to this vital transportation corridor. The historic and unique tribal, state, federal and county partnership paved the way for a sustained commitment by all parties that led to today’s announcement. I look forward to ensuring this partnership continues so the improvements to the I-10 can occur in an efficient and timely manner that takes into account the safety of the community. It will revolutionize travel in our community, improving access to government services and employment, and we are so grateful to President Biden and his administration for their recognition of the need to direct these vital infrastructure resources to benefit those rural and tribal communities that have been overlooked for so long. We are looking forward to welcoming Secretary Buttigieg and his team to our reservation to celebrate this historic investment in Indian Country.”