"That's it. That's my home."
Lori Figueroa pointed to a tiny spot on an aerial photograph of the West
Valley that is her Tolleson home. Drawn around it was a web of colored
lines showing possible routes for the South Mountain Freeway.
If the freeway goes one way, it could run right next to her house. If it
goes another, it could run right through it.
"Whether they put
it here, there or somewhere else . . . someone's home or business is going
to be destroyed," she said.
Figueroa was among more than 100 people Tuesday at a daylong kick-off to a
series of open houses about the proposed freeway, sponsored by the Arizona
Department of Transportation.
The session in Avondale was the first of three such open houses this week.
Attendance and emotions are expected to rise as the meetings move south
along the proposed route through Laveen to Ahwatukee Foothills.
At the Estrella Vista Reception Center, there was shock and frustration
from residents who learned they could lose their homes. There also was
impatience from those who want to see the long-delayed Interstate 10
reliever constructed soon.
"They do things crazy," a frustrated Robert Jelinek, 35, said of
state planners, upon learning that his nearly completed home near Broadway
Road and 69th Avenue could sit next to one of the proposed alignments, a
fact he says was not disclosed to him when he bought it. "Why have
they dragged their feet for 20 years? Every year (that) they've dragged
their feet, everything has built up."
The South Mountain Freeway was part of a network of Valley highways
approved by the Maricopa Association of Governments in 1988. Planners ran
out of money before they could build the South Mountain Freeway, which
would complete Loop 202.
It would link I-10 in the west and south, bypassing Phoenix. ADOT has
proposed connecting the western leg at 55th Avenue, 71st Avenue or Loop
101, and the southern leg along Pecos Road in Ahwatukee.
The current debate on freeways, condemned homes and upset communities
echoes the one that surrounded the Red Mountain Freeway in the late 1990s.
ADOT went through a similar public process on the stretch of the 202 from
U.S. 60 to Country Club Drive, spokesman Matt Burdick said.
The Valley's rapid growth in the years since the freeway was first put on
the books has complicated its planning. Phoenix is developing so fast that
parcels that appeared to be plain dirt on ADOT's aerial photographs, taken
in January 2005, are now housing developments, residents note. Some of the
developments sit in potential freeway footprints.
For some in attendance, it was not their first experience with freeway
growth. Ten years ago, Dave and Darlene Lewis were renting a home near
69th Avenue in Glendale that was threatened with condemnation to make way
for Loop 101.
Today, they own a home on the Phoenix-Tolleson border that could be
bulldozed if the freeway is connected at Loop 101.