choice on freeway path
Sept. 30, 2005 12:00 AM
The Phoenix Parks and
Recreation Board came out strongly against allowing the proposed South Mountain
Freeway to cut across the western edge of South Mountain Park. It was a warm and
fuzzy decision, soothing Ahwatukee Foothills residents who now feel like the
city is standing up for their park.
There's only one problem: The parks board has no real power to stop the freeway.
The decision on whether and where to build the $1 billion freeway rests on the
Maricopa Association of Governments. Sure, Phoenix is a member but does not hold
the final say.
It is a geographical squeeze play. There are only two options in that area for
the freeway: along the western 200 feet of the park or on the Gila River Indian
The Gila community has not agreed to allow it. If Indian community officials
don't change their stance, the parks board, MAG and the Arizona Department of
Transportation combined don't have the authority to force them into it.
We're all about the interests of Ahwatukee, but in the matter of transportation
corridors, the greater good of other communities must come into play. No
neighborhood wants a freeway near its back yard, but everyone drives on the
freeways. Look at the growth of freeway miles over the past decade - Ahwatukee
residents are hardly alone in their dismay that a huge swath of concrete and
asphalt is coming their way. Yet last November, county voters approved a
half-cent sales tax that will fund freeways. We all want the convenience.
The impact of a potential South Mountain Freeway affects people in a much
broader area than our village, and pressure is growing to decide on the western
freeway alignment. ADOT is planning at least five freeway construction or
expansion projects whose progress depends on where the South Mountain Freeway
ends up in the West Valley.
The freeway's been on the books for 20 years. There are signs along Pecos Road
announcing the possibility of freeway interchanges.
For more than three years, ADOT has fed dribbles of information to the South
Mountain Citizens Advisory Team about various alignments and the resultant
impacts. Some members of the team have criticized ADOT officials for not getting
them more specific information. Now they'll be getting loads of it in the next
few months, because ADOT wants a recommendation from the team by January.
Time's wasting. And it's past time to pin down a decision on this freeway.