|East Valley Tribune, 09/20/2003|
South Mountain Freeway Revived
|Oft-discussed route getting new look from planners
By GARIN GROFF TRIBUNE -- CONTACT WRITER: (480) 898-6554 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The idea of a South Mountain Freeway has been around since the 1980s, but it has been nothing more than a dotted line on the map because of a funding shortage. Now that a new effort to fund freeways is in the works, planners are taking a fresh look at this segment of the Loop 202 freeway.
Transportation planners had developed an approximate route in the 1980s. But the studies for that alignment are now dated and need to be redone so the state can apply for federal funding. That could change the segment’s alignment significantly. The Arizona Department of Transportation is studying routes now, which require environmental assessments and public meetings that include an Oct. 1 session with Ahwatukee Foothills residents. The freeway would run from the Pecos Road exit of Interstate 10. It could continue on Pecos Road or shift south of housing developments and into the Gila River Indian Community.
The original alignment had the freeway rejoining I-10 in the West Valley near 55th Avenue. Now, ADOT is studying that path and routes that connect near 71st Avenue or the Loop 101 interchange with I-10. The Valley needs this freeway to handle a booming population, said John Godec, a consultant working with ADOT on the plan. The Valley will grow from 3.3 million people to 5.5 million people by 2025.
"We will have 22 percent more cars and trucks on the streets than we have roads to put them on," Godec said. But if the South Mountain Freeway were built, the road shortage would fall to 15 percent, he said. The freeway would carry 155,000 cars a day, similar to traffic on I-10 from Warner to Elliot roads. The freeway would span at least 21 miles and cost $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion.
Ahwatukee Foothills residents have mixed feelings on the freeway, said John McComish, president of the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce. The freeway would improve access, said McComish, who also is president of the Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee. But residents don’t want the 1980s-era alignment on Pecos Road because it would be too close to their homes, he said. "Most people hope it gets built, and that it gets built on the Gila River Indian Community," McComish said.
The freeway’s construction depends upon voters extending the 20-year, half-cent transportation sales tax, which could be on the May 18 ballot.