|Arizona Tribune, 4/29/2002|
30 ways to build a freeway, but is it needed?
|S. Mountain study finds multitude of possibilities
BY JOHN YANTIS, TRIBUNE
A plan to build Loop 202 around South Mountain in the Ahwatukee Foothills is resulting in about 30 potential routes, state highway officials say. The need for a highway has been questioned by many residents who say few of them will use it to get to Phoenix or the West Valley because it would be too inconvenient to drive around South Mountain.
"Iím not, just not convinced itís going to help the greater East Valley," said Laurel Arndt, an environmental planner and member of the Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee. "Itís going to help select travelers, people coming up from Tucson who want to get to the west side of the Valley and people who want to travel from the west to Interstate 10. Itís going to be a lot of money spent, itís going to be a lot of disruption and Iím not sure the buy-in from the eastern community is going to be there."
Arizona Department of Transportation officials plan a public meeting Tuesday to update residents on the South Mountain Corridor Study. The three-year study, which began in July 2001, will determine if a freeway or smaller highway should be built south of the mountain. It also will determine where the roadway should be constructed, and its environmental impacts.
The South Mountain Freeway portion of Loop 202 was included in the regional freeway system approved by Maricopa County voters in 1985. As presented in a Maricopa Association of Governments report in 1988, it would connect Interstate 10 near Chandler Boulevard with I-10 between 55 th and 63 rd avenues in west Phoenix. The freeway would follow Pecos Road and pass through the western tip of South Mountain Park and the Gila River Indian Community. The north-south leg of the freeway would pass near the Laveen area of southwest Phoenix.
"Thereís obviously a lot of concern from folks who live near Pecos Road that presume itís a done deal and that itís going to go on Pecos Road," said Matt Burdick, ADOT spokesman. "Thatís completely false. Weíre less than a year into a three-year process."
The MAG route will be one of more than two dozen considered, Burdick said. Some are outside the studyís boundaries. "There is going to be a need in the future for some type of a road to go around South Mountain, Burdick said. "Are we going to build a roadway like Pecos Road is today, with two lanes in each direction, or are we going to build a full freeway? Because of the growth in Ahwatukee and the southwest Valley, weíre probably going to be looking at a freeway."
Phoenix City Councilman Greg Staton, who represents the area, said the best place for the highway would be in the Gila River community so the tribe can take advantage of the economic development that would spring up. The study and environmental analysis is being done so federal money can be used to build the project. Plans call for narrowing the alternatives over the next year before more closely analyzing a handful of routes.
IF YOU GO