The Arizona Republic
Nov. 23, 2005 12:00 AM
state's plans to carve a canyon in South Mountain Park to accommodate the
proposed South Mountain Freeway were met with skepticism by a committee of the
Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board.
After a presentation Monday by the Arizona Department of Transportation and its
consultants on the freeway's possible effects on the mountain, the Phoenix
Sonoran Preserve Committee decided to wait for more information before making
its official recommendation.
But, members indicated, their immediate impression wasn't favorable.
on what we're seeing here, it's not going to fly," committee chairman
Daniel Cleland said.
Plans for the proposed 10-lane, $1 billion-plus freeway route is through the
westernmost portion of South Mountain Park, calling for cuts up to 200 feet deep
and 800 feet wide in two of the mountain's ridges.
"I think that is an extremely severe cut," Cleland told the
In September, the parks board voted unanimously against allowing any freeway
through South Mountain Park, essentially stating the city's official position on
protecting what is often called the largest municipal park in the country.
Because the preserve is a public park and has cultural significance to the Gila
River Indian Community, federal requirements dictate that planners must find
ways to avoid or minimize the impact on it.
The only way to avoid the park would be to route the freeway on land owned by
the Gila River Indian Community. After about four years of negotiations with
ADOT, tribal officials have not consented to any study of the freeway on their
land. Rerouting the freeway on their land could wipe out the residential
community of St. John's, said Ralph Ellis, an environmental planner with ADOT.
"We all understand the dismay (surrounding cuts to the park)," said
environmental planner Jack Allen of HDR Inc., the consultant working with ADOT.
"But if we can't come to another solution, we are going to have to look at
how we'll minimize impact to the park."
Also speaking out against the freeway's alignment at the meeting were several
members of the Phoenix Mountains Preservation Council, a conservation group.
"At all costs right now, we should be looking at other alternatives"
to cutting through the park, said Michael Goodman of PMPC. Goodman also
represents the council to the South Mountain Citizens Advisory Team, a volunteer
group that advises ADOT.
Resident Jan Hancock inquired about the possibility of tunneling under the
preserve to avoid cutting the ridges. Amy Edwards of HDR said that alternative
had been studied but was dropped after it was determined that they would need to
build two or three tunnels to handle all the lanes. In addition, the tunnels'
air shafts would require cuts to the mountain tops.