Surprise’s Veterans Bridge dedication ceremony set for Friday

The bridge at Bell Road and Grand Avenue will be renamed Veterans Bridge at on official ceremony on Friday, April 26. State Senator Rick Gray helped push the name change through the official state process. The $41.9 million bridge opened to traffic in late 2016. [Jason Stone/Independent Newsmedia]

By Jason Stone, INDEPENDENT NEWSMEDIA

Dan Reilly has been successful getting projects renamed for veterans in the past. Now, his latest work is about to be unveiled in Surprise.

Mr. Reilly’s idea to name the Bell Road bridge that spans Grand Avenue — unofficially coined the “Bell/Grand Bridge” — is taking effect at a special ceremony 1 p.m. Friday, April 26.

That’s when Veterans Bridge will be officially named, with dignitaries such as Gov. Doug Ducey; Arizona Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray; and Surprise Mayor Skip Hall on-hand.

The event takes place in the Surprise Marketplace Target parking lot, which is just east of BBVA Compass Bank, at 13731 W. Bell Road.

“I’m very proud,” said Mr. Reilly, a 67-year-old retired Air Force veteran and fireman from upstate New York. “It’s not for me alone, it’s for all the veterans in the area.”

IF YOU GO

  • What: Veterans Bridge name unveiling
  • When: 1 p.m. Friday, April 26
  • Where: Surprise Marketplace Target parking lot, 13731 W. Bell Road
  • Tickets: Free
  • Information: SurpriseAZ.gov

The 17-year El Mirage resident first pledged the idea to then-State Sen. Debbie Lesko soon after the bridge opened to traffic in late 2016.

Ms. Lesko began going through the official process to have the bridge named and designated, but she never finished the process for a good reason. She left her Arizona Legislature seat to replace Trent Franks in the U.S. Congress when Mr. Franks resigned.

That’s when Mr. Gray stepped in to see the project through.

The Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names voted to approve the naming Jan. 22.

“This is such a fitting name for this bridge,” Mr. Hall said. “We have a high population of veteran residents in our city, and I hope this serves as a reminder that they are honored and supported in Surprise.”

According to 2017 U.S. Census estimates in the American Community Survey, veterans make up 10.3% of the Surprise population, which is slightly higher than the state rate of 9%. Of the more than 11,000 veterans in Surprise, nearly 95% of them are men.

Those numbers could one day change as current U.S. military demographics show nearly 37% of active duty Army personnel are now women, followed by a quarter of the makeup of the Navy and Air Force, as well as 14% of all Marines.

The city’s Human Service and Community Vitality Department has created several programs targeted at assisting veterans with finding employment and connections to housing and health and mental health care.

Surprise spokeswoman Diane Arthur said information on those programs will be available at the bridge celebration.

“And we will have some speakers and unveil some new signage,” Ms. Arthur said.

Arizona Department of Transportation workers will add the signage sometime this week. The city has plans for an on-bridge signage application in the coming months.

Mr. Reilly said he hasn’t been asked to speak at the event, but he would if asked. Althought with a day packed with meetings for the American Legion, DAV and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, his day is already packed.

“I get maybe one or two days like this a month,” he said. “I just got to change my shirt.”

Editor’s note: Jason Stone can be reached at 623-445-2805, on email at jstone@newszap.com or on Twitter at @thestonecave.


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