too, is there for South Mountain Freeway
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 8, 2005 12:30 PM
morning at 5:30 a.m., Richard Liederer boards a shuttle van in Ahwatukee
Foothills for the long drive to work. In darkness, the van crawls up Interstate
10 and through downtown Phoenix and the West Valley to the Palo Verde nuclear
plant. The commute takes 90 to 115 minutes each way.
By his estimate, the proposed South Mountain Freeway connecting Ahwatukee to the
West Valley could shave up to 30 minutes off his commute. Does he support the
project? You bet he does.
"I've been waiting for this for 20 years," he said.
is among the large yet relatively silent proportion of Ahwatukee residents in
favor of the proposed South Mountain Freeway.
Though the freeway's outspoken critics have forcefully asserted their views at
public meetings and through the media, many of their neighbors in Ahwatukee want
to see the freeway built to relieve traffic on Interstate 10.
Studies show that the project's advocates could even be a majority in Ahwatukee.
Some of them are worried that the attention paid the detractors could overshadow
the need for the project.
"I almost feel like we need to make posters and go and demonstrate in favor
of it," said Lynn Johnson. "We have been very silent, but I know we're
In April 2001, Phoenix commissioned a survey of residents who commute to work
from Ahwatukee on the South Mountain Freeway. The study found that 57 percent of
the 304 residents interviewed were in favor of building the freeway along Pecos
Road. Of residents who lived within 1 mile of Pecos, less than half - 44 percent
- were against the alignment.
The Arizona Department of Transportation and the Maricopa Association of
Governments, which controls the freeway's funding, have not surveyed Ahwatukee
residents on the matter.
If those results are still an accurate reflection of Ahwatukee opinions, the
supporters are a largely silent majority. Of about 2,000 public comments
submitted in the last month, 70 percent were against building the freeway, said
Theresa Gunn, a consultant working for ADOT.
The vast majority were from Ahwatukee residents who attended a meeting at the
Grace Inn last month, she said. Comments received after similar open houses in
Avondale and Laveen were three-to-one in favor of the project.
ADOT is occasionally contacted by Ahwatukee residents who want the freeway,
particularly commuters fed up with delays on I-10 or residents who live farther
from Pecos, spokesman Matt Burdick said.
Supporters said they were baffled by the public outcry against the 20-year-old
proposal, which existed long before most Ahwatukee residents moved into their
"I just don't understand them. We need it, Phoenix needs it, the Valley
needs it," said Gene Cox, a resident since 1987. "Most of the people
I've talked to would like to see the freeway built. They just don't have the
time or energy to attend meetings and holler and scream."
Proponents said they would use the freeway to reach the West Valley for work or
leisure. Almost half of respondents to an informal online poll conducted by the Ahwatukee
Republic during the past week said they would use the freeway
regularly or occasionally. "Paul McCartney doesn't come very often, but
when he does I want to get to it," said Pamela Bradfield, referring to
events at the Glendale Arena.
Bradfield lives just one block north of Pecos Road. If the freeway goes through,
she'll be able to see it from her windows, a fact she knew when she bought her
home in 2003.
"I live just as close as can be and it doesn't bother me, and I didn't know
I was the exception," she said.
Like others in favor of the freeway, she said it was necessary to relieve
increasing congestion on I-10. Residents also said they wanted more exit options
from Ahwatukee, which currently can only be accessed through I-10.
"If there was any kind of disaster where we needed to evacuate quickly, our
surface streets are pitiful," Johnson said. "Whenever there has been a
freeway diversion (on I-10), it just totally cripples our community."
Many said they were embarrassed or frustrated by what Bradfield termed the
"hysteria" of the freeway's opponents. Ahwatukee's vocal and often
emotional opposition to the plans has drawn scorn from those in and outside the
Pointing to communities across the Valley that have been forced to absorb
freeways, some residents said that Ahwatukee would have to learn to do the same.
"We can't sit back and say, 'I don't want it in my backyard,'" said
Chuck Corbin, an resident of Ahwatukee for 18 years. "At some point, we've
got to do what's best for all of the people."
• About this two-day series: In Thursday's Ahwatukee Republic we talked with residents who are against
the South Mountain Freeway. Read that story at ahwatukee.azcentral.com.