|Ahwatukee Foothills News, 9/24/03|
It's Time to Settle Freeway Site Question
Last week's meeting on the Valley's future transportation plan could have blown up into little pieces of paper and left a lot of cities with nothing. The unanimous outcome says a lot. The agreement expressed in the vote by the 22-member Maricopa Association of Governments' Transportation Policy Committee shows that not only is every city happy with what's in the plan, but that each city saw the mutual benefits from an expanded and in some cases upgraded transportation system.
City leaders were still squabbling weeks before the meeting over who was going to get what during the next 20 years, and while they likely recognized the Valleywide benefits of an improved system, they could only see their city's needs. The unanimity shown on Sept. 17 is an important start for this plan, which still faces several hurdles and may not win voter approval if it is presented as anything less than a Valleywide plan that benefits all residents.
Some cities and parts of the Valley will certainly get more concrete and asphalt than others, but it is the Valley as a whole that will benefit both in the short term with more jobs and in the long-term with easier access to a greater variety of employment opportunities. People need to understand this if transportation plan supporters hope to convince voters that the plan is in their best interest come 2004, when it is expected voters will be asked to extend a half-cent sales tax for another 20 years to help fund a substantial chunk of the $17.1 billion plan.
Of course, in some cases, communities don't want any concrete. Take Ahwatukee Foothills and the South Mountain Freeway as an example. This transportation leg from (roughly) Interstate 10 and Pecos Road will stretch west then north to I-10, where it will connect with the interstate near 55th Avenue, or 69th Avenue or near Loop 101. This freeway is included in the transportation plan, and does not have the support of every voter here primarily because no decision has yet been made on where it will be built whether Pecos Road or farther south.
The South Mountain Freeway is important to the Valley's transportation infrastructure and the region's growth and residents here will use it, but until the Pecos Road question is settled, it's a good bet that Ahwatukee Foothills' voters will be reluctant to vote in favor of the transportation tax.
This freeway has been on the books for at least 20 years. In fact, it was included in the first transportation tax package approved in 1985. Its delay apparently has been due to the need to build other freeways first, but its importance is growing. Community leaders and the Arizona Department of Transportation would be wise to crank up their efforts to settle on a location for the east-west leg of the South Mountain Freeway. Doing so before the 2004 vote, and finding a location favorable to residents here will go a long way toward winning votes.
It just so happens that ADOT is planning three public meetings about updates to the South Mountain Freeway plan. They are: * Tuesday, Sept. 30 at Cesar Chavez High School, 3921 W. Baseline Road, Phoenix, * Wednesday, Oct. 1, Desert Vista High School, 16440 S. 32nd St., Ahwatukee Foothills, and * Thursday, Oct. 2, Tolleson High School, 9419 W. Van Buren St. The Ahwatukee Foothills News encourages residents to attend.
-- John Conway, editor