By Jason Stone, INDEPENDENT NEWSMEDIA
The bridge that crosses Surprise’s most-traveled intersection will soon get its own name.
Two years after opening to major fanfare, the Bell Road bridge rising above Grand Avenue, will be renamed Veterans’ Bridge at an official ceremony on Friday, April 26.
State Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray, who serves Surprise and other parts of the northwest Valley in Legislative District 21, helped push for the change after a veteran suggested the idea when the Vietnam-era “Moving Wall” stopped through Surprise last July.
Mr. Gray said he checked with the Arizona Department of Transportation on the required procedure to officially name it and drummed up the support of city councilmembers who shared a different side of the bridge – Ken Remley and Mayor Skip Hall, who was a councilmember at the time.
With the help of the support of U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Lesko, the state approved the change.
Gov. Doug Ducey will be among the dignitaries on hand for the ceremony.
“The Bell and Grand bridge is the most highly traveled area in Surprise, so having it renamed in honor of our veterans will be a constant reminder to residents and visitors of the service and sacrifice of our military men and women,” Mr. Hall said.
The $41.9 million bridge opened in late 2016 after months of construction, which hampered business traffic in the area for much of the year. The intersection badly needed the bridge, however, as the state at the time listed it as the third-busiest intersection in Maricopa County.
Construction was set back about a month when partway through construction one of 89 concrete girders collapsed, injuring a worker who fell 40 feet to the ground.
The Maricopa Association of Governments Regional Transportation Plan approved by county voters in 2004 paid for the project. A countywide half-cent sales tax for transportation and the MAG region’s share of federal highway funds jointly paid for it.
The full closure of Bell Road between 134th Avenue and West Point Parkway began in April 2016 and wrapped up just in time for the 2016 holiday shopping season.
The Grand Avenue median ramps that connect it to the bridge were finished in February 2017.
“I think I’m just honored to be part of a city that would recognize veterans for the service that they’ve done for our country by way of naming a bridge,” said District 5 Councilmember David Sanders, who serves the center section of Surprise.
According to U.S. Census figures, about 10.3% of Surprise’s more than 134,000 estimated residents are veterans. That’s a touch higher than the state rate of 9% and the metro Phoenix rate of 7.8%.
“Supporting them and honoring their service is very important to us,” Mr. Hall said.