Mar. 30, 2005 12:00 AM
Tucked among dozens of recommended Phoenix budget cuts is
a study that is to determine the economic, employment and social impact of
building Loop 202, the South Mountain Freeway, through Ahwatukee Foothills.
The $10,000 study is among the items the Community and Economic Development
Department may eliminate if the proposed cuts are approved by the mayor and
Phoenix City Council on April 5.
If the city decides not to conduct its own study, it will rely on the
Arizona Department of Transportation's study of the impact of building the
The draft of ADOT's environmental impact statement will not be completed
until January 2006 at the earliest.
Without the Ahwatukee Foothills study, some worry that the area's interest
will not be served.
"I worry about that because ADOT is driven to show the purpose behind
what they are doing," said Laurel Arndt, a member of the Ahwatukee
Foothills Village Planning Committee. "It would not be a balanced study
if it doesn't look at the disadvantages of development there. ADOT is in the
business of building freeways. They will find everything to support their
The study would have been the second of its kind for the city. The first,
completed in December, focused on 59th, 75th and 97th avenues, all possible
freeway connections to Interstate 10 on the west side.
"One of the reasons we cut it was because Phase 2 (Ahwatukee Foothills)
doesn't have as many alignments or alternatives as the west side and so
there are fewer impacts," said Roberto Franco, director of the
Community and Economic Development Department.
Councilman Greg Stanton agrees that a study of the impact to Ahwatukee
Foothills may not be as needed as the west side. Stanton is focused on
pushing the freeway south of Pecos Road, onto the Gila River Reservation.
"We wanted to do a companion study for the east alignment but obviously
the west side is more important than ours because we know there are much
better economic opportunities available south of Pecos Road," Stanton
said. "In light of our budget problems we've got to make tough
In its budget the city has expressed concern that eliminating the study will
reduce the "ability to lobby ADOT for its desired alignment, which
could reduce the development of new jobs and retail sales revenue."
State Rep. John McComish, R-Phoenix, who is president of the Ahwatukee
Foothills Chamber of Commerce, believes a study is needed.
"Considering the fact they've done a study on the west side, there
should be a study on our section so they have a total picture when it comes
time to negotiate with ADOT," McComish said. "I support efforts to
cut back because of budget issues, but this is a small amount."
Stanton insists Ahwatukee Foothills will not be disadvantaged in the
bargaining process even if a study is not completed.
"I believe that since it has been on the books for so many years, I
believe ADOT wants the Pecos Road alignment," Stanton said. "But
it will become a political decision."
The proposal to eliminate the study does not represent a turnaround in the
city's anti-Pecos Road alignment stance, Stanton said.
"The public policy is the same," he said.
Pecos Road has been the sole southern route officially under study for the
South Mountain Freeway since 1984 when voters approved that first half-cent
The tax was intended to fund the Valley's transportation goals, which
included constructing highways and finishing streets.
One of the aims of the Valley's transportation plan, as set forth by the
Maricopa Association of Governments, was to erect a beltway around the city
that would link the southeast portion of Interstate 10 in Ahwatukee
Foothills to its West Valley corollary in Phoenix, Tolleson or Avondale.
Though initially a part of the county's transportation goals 21 years ago,
the South Mountain Freeway was never built.