Ocotillo Bridge

This map shows the likely location of the Ocotillo Bridge, which will connect Higley and Greenfield roads in Gilbert.

A much-needed bridge that will cross over the middle of Gilbert Regional Park and connect two major arterials ­– Higley and Greenfield roads –  will have a desert oasis theme. 

Staff anticipated a 30-percent completion of the design by April for the Ocotillo Bridge, which will allow for faster emergency vehicle response times in the area and give people direct access to the 272-acre park, which is a destination recreation spot with an amphitheater, a lake, trails and numerous sport courts and fields.

“When I hear the theme desert oasis, I’m just wondering if that is being sensitive to the conversations we’re having on water today and is that creating an identify that maybe would appear that we’re not interested in conservation?” Councilwoman Kathy Tilque asked at last Tuesday’s Town Council study session.

Desert oasis comes with different meanings for people, according to Ryan Blair, Project CIP supervisor, who added the theme emerged from meetings with focus groups, the community and other stakeholders.

“I spend a lot of time up in the desert and oasis to me doesn’t always necessarily mean water,” Blair said. “It can be beauty, it can be flowers, it can be things of that nature that doesn’t always go towards water. 

“And so, what we do is we take the inspiration (and) we try to create that through concrete, through structures, through steel but not necessarily adding water components to the project.”

Designers currently envisioned a three-span bridge. The 545-foot bridge will have four travel lanes along with bicycle lanes and pedestrian pathways on both sides.  

The bridge will connect Ocotillo Road, which is    divided by a number of natural barriers such as the Queen Creek Canal, East Maricopa Floodway and a Roosevelt Water Conservation District canal.  

The plan is to first create four design concepts for the bridge, which will be refined down to two, said Marissa Pellegrini, landscape architect with Kimley-Horn, planning and design engineering consultants.

“We’ll then come back to you, as well as the focus groups, the steering committee and the public to finalize the design concept and move right into the 30-percent design plans,” she said, adding there will be a robust outreach effort for input.

“Is the fiscal lens going to be part of how we filter some of the design concepts?” Councilwoman Aimee Yentes asked.  

Blair explained that the town has brought the contractor on board early in the process instead of at the 30-percent design phase in order to get a better idea of the cost.

“They’re going to be along the way of every phase,” Blair said.  

The town has budgeted $67 million for the project, of which $54 million will be for the construction of the bridge, he added. Funding was expected to come from sources, including a $515-million transportation bond on this November’s ballot and a transportation impact fee.

Earlier this year, the mayor testified on behalf of Senate Bill 1681, which would have provided $7.9 million toward the project but the measure died in the House.

 Council members last week was asked to respond by Sept. 14 to three survey questions that asked for their definition of desert oasis, how they envisioned the theme being applied to the project and what unique Gilbert characteristics could be incorporated into the theme.

  “We’d like to incorporate your feedback by Sept. 14 so that we can start working toward our design,” Blair said. “This is an exciting project for the town and we’ve got some fun to be had as we develop what this project actually is going to look like at the end of the day.”