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Tonto Creek bridge project makes progress years after deaths

It’s been nearly four years since three children and a 69-year-old man died in separate incidents in vehicles that were attempting to cross the flooded Tonto Creek.

And now, crews are making progress on building a bridge there.

The $26 million project will cover a quarter-mile expanse over Tonto Creek, making it easier to cross the waterway south of Payson. 

Arizona Rep. David Cook of Globe says the project hit a series of delays from the state’s wet winter this year. But he says support columns are finally being poured. 

“We were really worried about the snow pack and if we had a warm rain, that that would be some more continuous flooding in that area that might happen. Now, we just need to keep an eye on that monsoon season as that waterflow is being monitored," Cook says. 

The Tonto Basin community along the creek has 1,743 residents. Some can become isolated during periods of flooding.

Greg Hahne started as a news intern at KJZZ in 2020 and returned as a field correspondent in 2021. He learned his love for radio by joining Arizona State University's Blaze Radio, where he worked on the production team.