The Arizona Republic
Mar. 5, 2005 12:00 AM
Phoenix officials have come out against it. Many residents have been opposed to its construction.
But for almost 20 years, Pecos Road has been on the books as the site of the South Mountain (202) Freeway.
The Gila River Indian Community, just south of Ahwatukee Foothills, plans to vote this year on whether the freeway could be built on the reservation. That could alter the 20-year plan for Pecos Road. Building the freeway on the Gila reservation is an option many Ahwatukee residents prefer. Some worry about noise, traffic and crime coming into their community. Others, however, want Ahwatukee connected to the western side of the Valley.
If a freeway were not built along Pecos Road the
city could still expand the nine-mile stretch of unfinished road
into a six-lane highway with a median in the center, said Don Herp,
deputy street transportation director for Phoenix.
"Eventually, the city would come in and finish the street and construct the lanes, the curbing and gutter," Herp said. "It'll be just like any street the city builds and fully improves."
Not long ago, there wasn't anything there to improve.
In 1980, Pecos Road was like most of Ahwatukee Foothills then - a desolate, barren, desert area.
Phoenix annexed the area south of Chandler Boulevard in 1981.
The city also began trying to develop the area, said John Siefert, a traffic engineer for the city.
In the same period, talks of expanding the region's freeways were increasing.
"Between 1980 and 1985, significant changes occurred in the area," Siefert said. "The Maricopa Association of Governments' plans for the freeway were widely known. It was before the area had started developing."
By 1984, voters approved the first half-cent sales tax increase, which was intended to fund the improvement of roads and construction of freeways in the Valley.
The South Mountain (202) Freeway was one of those projects. Pecos Road was the only road identified by the Arizona Department of Transportation and MAG as the southern route for the freeway. It would eventually curve westward around South Mountain Park/Preserve, turning north to connect with Interstate 10.
It was put on hold because other freeways had higher priorities.
In the meantime, Ahwatukee Foothills grew.
In 1980, the area's population was about 4,300. In 1985, about 5,700 people lived in Ahwatukee Foothills. Now about 80,000 live there.
Pecos Road was built in increments by developers and Phoenix.
The first stretch of the road extended from 24th Street to 40th Street.
Another section, from 24th Street to 19th Avenue, was approved for construction in 1987.
The area between 19th Avenue and 27th Avenue was built between 2000 and 2002.
If the freeway isn't built there, Pecos Road would go on the list of streets that are waiting to be improved by the city. Now there are 111 segments of city streets that are scheduled for improvement, Herp said.
Streets are reviewed annually. Those that are the highest priority go into a pool of others in a five-year street improvement program, Herp said.
Streets awaiting improvement may have drainage problems, new developments nearby or traffic problems.
A total of 10 factors are added up and used to determine where improvements are made, Herp said.
If improved, the city may widen Pecos Road to six lanes, install curbing and gutters, sidewalks, landscaping and street lighting.
For Ron Chohamin, president of the Lakewood Community Association of Ahwatukee, the suggested improvements are meager and do little to address one of the reasons why a freeway was planned for the area - Ahwatukee's isolation.
"It doesn't make any sense to make a dead-end road," Chohamin said. "I just don't know if they are willing to take it further, around the mountain, to connect western Ahwatukee. If the freeway were built there, they would have the same challenge."