lobbies for Loop 202 alignment
City says its plans for a commerical core could be hurt if freeway doesn't use
55th Avenue alignment
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 19, 2005 12:00 AM
to create a thriving commercial core in Laveen could all be in vain should a
federal study recommend shifting the final phase of the proposed Loop 202
expansion away from the rural community.
"The city incorporated this alignment into its general plan for
redeveloping the area," said Peter Valenzuela, hired by the recently formed
Citizens Supporting a 55th Avenue Alignment Coalition to lobby for the 55th
Avenue juncture. "We need this for an economic core base in Laveen."
The proposed loop, which officials say will help alleviate traffic pressure on
Interstate 10 and provide a route that will bypass downtown Phoenix around South
Mountain from Maryvale to Ahwatukee, is still in the planning stages and years
from becoming a reality.
Still, resident groups and others are lobbying now for their
preferred route, somewhere through Laveen on the west side, so that when and if
this leg of Loop 202 gets built, it is where they want it.
A 1985 study commissioned by the Arizona Department of Transportation
recommended building the 22-mile South Mountain Freeway along Pecos Road in
Ahwatukee and around South Mountain to connect it to I-10 at 55th Avenue. Pecos
Road would handle the east-west traffic flow, while 55th Avenue would manage it
north and south. Budget woes stalled the plans.
Meanwhile, Phoenix city officials and Laveen Village property owners used the
55th Avenue alignment, which was approved by the state's transportation board in
1988, as the basis for their ongoing redevelopment plans, including a commercial
Fast-growing Laveen Village has about 10,000 residents and extends from the Salt
River to the South Mountain Preserve between 27th and 75th avenues.
The current setback stems from a $6 million federal study launched in 2001 that
requires the state to look into environmental impacts and consider changes in
traffic, population, housing and commercial development before it can secure
Alternate routing plans must also be reviewed before the state can receive
federal funding to help pay for the nearly $1.1 billion South Mountain Freeway.
Officials hope to complete the study by 2007, but a draft with preliminary
results, including a route recommendation, is due late next year.
More information on the freeway is available at (602) 712-7006 or www.southmountainfreeway.com.
Many residents and property owners share concerns about the freeway's impact to
their home values, quality of life, and businesses. Ahwatukee residents have
already vented their anger at community meetings regarding the proposed freeway,
which could see about 145,000 vehicles a day, according to a recent survey
conducted by the Maricopa Association of Governments.
"This is always a concern, because everyone acknowledges the need for
freeways but nobody wants them near their properties," said Matt Burdick, a
spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation. "But we need to
build it somewhere."
to ease congestion
consistently ranks in the Top 10 of most-congested cities in the country.
The proposed Loop 202 extension would help alleviate that. It's part of the
final leg of the nearly 78-mile Loop 202, which includes the Red Mountain and
San Tan freeways, now near completion.
"Because of the phenomenal growth in the East and West Valleys, this would
definitely help mitigate traffic," Burdick said. "But the federal
study requires us to consider other options before deciding on the best
Initially, 37 options were reviewed before state transit officials whittled them
down to the best three route plans using federal and state criteria, including
future growth and traffic projections. They are the 55th Avenue option, a 71st
Avenue alignment, or connecting at Loop 101 (about 99th Avenue).
Phoenix city officials back the 55th Avenue alignment.
lot of concern'
been planning that (Laveen) area based on that 55th Avenue alignment, so
naturally there's a lot of concern about a possible shift elsewhere," said
Don Herp, Phoenix's deputy street transportation director. "I don't think
the city would just accept another alignment, because there's too much riding on
this. We would contest it somehow."
Plans on the southwestern side would affect the Gila River Reservation or South
"We don't know what they'll decide, so we're already looking into ways to
mitigate the impacts to the park," Burdick said.
The federal study also requires officials to consider a no-build scenario. Few
of those following the issue view this as a viable choice because of the
Valley's projected growth.
The goal is to break ground on the project by 2009 and complete the freeway by
2015. Building just a portion of the freeway is not an option, officials said.
Voters approved a regional transportation plan that includes more than $1
billion toward the South Mountain Freeway. If the federal study recommends not
building it, the money would be used for other projects, Burdick said.
"In the past, the issue was that we had the corridor but not the
money," he said. "Now the issue is we have the money, but not a
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