struggles to handle growth
Plan for Pinal County freeways to be sent to state board
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 10, 2005 12:00 AM
Department of Transportation officials admitted Friday that better policies are
needed for selecting freeway routes before thousands of houses are built in
ADOT officials have come under fire for bumper-to-bumper jams on Interstate 17
at Anthem and for trying to place the South Mountain Freeway through the
Ahwatukee Foothills after thousands of houses have already been built.
"We're trying to address these issues before explosive growth (in Pinal
County)," said ADOT Director Victor Mendez during a Pinal Partnership
meeting Friday in Casa Grande. "We need a more coordinated approach."
believe a major overhaul is needed.
"The system is behind the curve," said Gordon Brown, a county
resident. "It's based on getting people before you get the infrastructure.
Explosive growth doesn't work like that, the whole thing falls apart."
Freeway and highway choices for an ambitious Pinal County transportation plan
will cost $6 billion and are about two years away, while the county sits on the
edge of a decades-long home-building explosion.
The latest proposal will go to the State Transportation Board early next year
for approval and to pick a corridor through the Florence area. Freeways are
years away from groundbreaking.
The ADOT studies were criticized for shortchanging county population growth
estimates through 2025 by more than 1 million people.
Florence officials, developers and area residents are worried that one of two
proposed ADOT freeway corridors running north-south could bore through the heart
of Merrill Ranch and other developments.
"It could hurt us economically in the long run," said Florence Mayor
Dale Buskirk, an ADOT planner, said, "The issues are complex and there is
some conflict among (cities and developers)."
Residents are desperate.
"We don't want (freeways) to run over our properties, but we'd like to have
a freeway close by," Don Northcutt said.
Coolidge stands to gain substantially from a west side corridor, linking to a
possible state highway with a future airpark and 1.2 million-square-foot indoor
mall, power center and a 60-acre auto mall.
Florence benefits from an eastward sweep, which would take the freeway through
State Trust land and undeveloped areas. An Anthem development is planned, mapped
and ground has been broken, and Rankin and developers rue the prospect of ADOT
buying up houses to make room for a freeway. More land could be jeopardized by
SRP's 500-kilovolt power lines also running through the same area.
Other commercial developments, such as Harold Christ's 440-acre mixed-use plan
northeast of Coolidge, Nearly one-third of that could eventually be needed for
right of ways.
"We'd like to see a decision sooner rather than later, so we can plan
around it," Christ said. "I want to make it work, I just need
direction for planning."
Florence Town Manager Himanshu Patel said the town wouldn't hold off
development. Home building will make a stronger case for ADOT skipping the