freeway would take out 430 more homes
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 2, 2005 12:42 PM
Ahwatukee Foothills residents have said repeatedly
that they don't want a freeway blocking their view of the desert.
But pushing the proposed South Mountain Freeway below ground could exact a heavy
price from communities on both sides of Pecos Road.
Engineers at the South Mountain Citizens Advisory Team meeting Thursday night
said that building the freeway below-grade could consume an additional 430 homes
along Pecos to make room for extra drainage tanks.
A representative for landowners in the Gila River
Indian Community reacted with frustration to talk of depressing the freeway, and
criticized the committee for not taking their concerns about drainage
interruptions into account.
"We've said we didn't want this depressed," said Nat Percharo, who
chairs a group representing about 5,000 owners of 1,300 acres on the
reservation. "Why have we not been asked the simple question, 'How do you
Whether elevated or depressed, the 10-lane freeway the Arizona Department of
Transportation wants to build would have drainage channels running on either
side of the asphalt to handle run-off from the highway.
If the freeway were built below ground, the depressed highway would block the
run-off from South Mountain that now flows through washes under Pecos Road and
onto the Gila River Reservation.
Engineers would have to build ponds 20 feet deep on the northern side of Pecos
to hold the extra water before it could be pumped away. That would take up to
210 additional acres containing 430 homes, said Amy Edwards, a project manager
with the consultant HDR.
The freeway is currently designed to run at street level along Pecos with
elevated interchanges, and could take 255 current and planned homes in
Committee members surmised that the prospect of bulldozing hundreds more homes
there would not be warmly received.
"We hear the people of Ahwatukee screaming over 250 homes. What are they
going to say when you take 430 more?" asked Laurie Prendergast, a member of
the team from Laveen.
On the southern side of Pecos, landowners were concerned that a depressed
freeway could interrupt drainage in an area that already sees dramatic flooding
during heavy rains.
A storm about seven years ago caused such severe flooding that the reservation's
fire trucks couldn't leave the station to rescue stranded residents, Percharo
"What am I going to do, sit there and get washed away? What is going to
happen when you recede this freeway?" he said.
A depressed freeway could also hurt economic development plans along that land
by blocking the community's access to Pecos, he said.