Frustration grows over freeway route
Ahwatukee Foothills News
Frustration that was evident two weeks ago at a public
meeting on the impact residents here would feel if Pecos Road is replaced with
the proposed Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway reappeared Monday at the Ahwatukee
Foothills Village Planning Committee.
While the frustration wasn't enough to trigger a vote
recommending the freeway be scratched, it appears to signal a failure of three
years of planning that some say emphasizes the process more than the outcome.
"I feel like we're going in a big circle,"
said Chris Gentis, a member of the planning committee.
"The bottom line is, today nobody wants the darn
thing things have changed dramatically. There's a lot of rhetoric going on,
and we're not getting anywhere."
Laurel Arndt, who is a member of the planning
committee and serves on the South Mountain Citizens Advisory Team, expressed
frustration at constantly being told that important information wouldn't be
available until later, although decisions need to be made in the near future.
The advisory team was formed to help the Arizona
Department of Transportation (ADOT) plan the freeway, which was first proposed
in 1988. But after meeting for three years, Arndt said many members are tired of
She specifically mentioned how the advisory team is
being told it must decide on a freeway route but won't be allowed to decide the
basic issue of if the freeway should be built in the first place.
"We've been told that we won't be allowed to ask
for a no-build option," Arndt said.
ADOT representatives have said repeatedly that not
building the freeway is a viable option and that while the department has a
study showing a need for a freeway, it hasn't decided if the freeway will be
The confusion over whether the advisory team can
recommend not building the freeway or if that decision can't be made until much
later was to be addressed at a Thursday meeting of the advisory team, according
to ADOT representative Bill Hayden. The meeting was held after the Ahwatukee
Foothills News' deadline.
Even supporters voiced frustration at the plodding
progress made by ADOT to find a route for the freeway.
"It probably will get built, despite what the
residents want, but in no time it will be obsolete," said Van Braswell, a
member of the planning committee, who admits that freeway traffic on Interstate
10 has gotten worse over the years.
But Braswell sees the solutions to traffic woes from a
holistic perspective, with freeways that address the transportation needs of the
entire Valley while allowing people to live near work and reducing the need for
Patrick Panetta, also a member of the planning
committee, said he isn't even convinced of the need for a freeway, let alone
where it should be built.
"Just prove to me empirically and then, maybe,
you'll have me," Panetta said.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Greta Rogers cut to the
chase when she called the process a "feckless, fatuous, charade. This is
bureaucracy at its worst."
The complaints didn't fall on deaf ears.
Attending the village planning committee meeting were
leaders from the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), which designed the
overall transportation plan for the Valley. While it doesn't have any direct
involvement in the route selection process, MAG is made up of representatives
from each of the Valley's cities and carries weight when it comes to
recommending the Valley's transportation system.
MAG executive director Dennis Smith had encouraged the
planning committee to make recommendations for amenities it would like to see in
"We owe it to build the freeway the community
wants," Smith said.
But after listening to complaints, mostly centering on
a lack of information, especially when it comes to the no-build option, MAG's
transportation director could say he understood the frustration.
"How can you look at the different options if you
don't have all the information?" Eric Anderson said.
He told the committee that MAG "may get a little
more involved," in the ADOT route planning process.
The Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway has been on the
books since 1988, running from I-10 at Pecos Road in Ahwatukee Foothills west
through a corner of South Mountain Park and then connecting with I-10 in the
West Valley somewhere between 51st Avenue and the Loop 101/I-10 interchange. In
Ahwatukee Foothills, a preliminary estimate released two weeks ago shows 255
homes would have to be demolished to make way for the freeway. Many of those
homes were built in the freeway right of way when the state didn't have the
money to buy the land in the mid 1980s.
Depending on which route in the West Valley is
approved, anywhere from 120 to 780 homes could be demolished, mostly new homes
built in the last few years.
In comparison, the state bought 795 homes to build
state Route 51 a decade ago.
The current timeline calls for the citizens advisory
team to recommend a final route in the West Valley early next year and the final
route in the East Valley by the end of 2006 or early in 2007, with the final
design completed in 2008 and construction to run from 2009-2015.
For information, visit www.southmountainfreeway.com
The reporter can be reached at (480)
898-7914 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.