shift against Freeway
By Doug Murphy
In 2003, most people who formally commented on the
proposal agreed there was a need for a freeway, but hoped it would be built
somewhere other than on Pecos Road, according to Theresa Gunn.
The business owner, who is assisting the Arizona
Department of Transportation (ADOT) with communication needs for the South
Mountain Freeway project, said recent comments show a change in perspective.
Notes and e-mails collected during ADOT's Nov. 17
public meeting on the freeway proposal ran 7-to-3 against freeway construction,
with many people saying there was no need for the freeway, according to Gunn,
owner of Peoria-based Gunn Communications and a facilitator in the public
involvement process of searching for a freeway route.
Gunn's announcement at the Dec. 1 South Mountain
Citizens Advisory Team meeting shows a marked shift in perspective on the
freeway itself rather than the route alone.
So what changed?
"We learned more about the freeway, and we don't
like what we heard," Ahwatukee Foothills resident Simon West said. His
house won't be impacted by the freeway construction, but he thinks it will
change the quality of life he has grown to appreciate.
And while it is a tired joke about Ahwatukee Foothills
being one giant cul-de-sac, resident Chris Ruhge is among those who are not
ready to give that up.
"We don't have through traffic which affects our
life. The freeway will open it up and take away what is special," she said
But opinions vary depending on where people live.
Wayne Nelson of the Gila River Indian Community lives
near Komatke where 51st Avenue carries heavy truck traffic through the small
Indian community due west of Ahwatukee Foothills.
"We feel it every day. I would wish for the outer
loop to take [trucks] away from my community," Nelson said, during a South
Mountain Citizens Advisory Team meeting in Komatke on Dec. 1. He is a member of
The advisory team was organized to help the Arizona
Department of Transportation update the freeway plan that had been approved in
Meanwhile, in Ahwatukee Foothills, a petition drive
has begun to collect signatures in the hope of keeping the freeway from being
built on Pecos Road.
"My personal preference is the no-build option
until a more reasonable alignment can be found," said Melanie Pai,
organizer of the petition drive and the grass-roots organization PARC,
Protecting Arizona's Resources and Children.
The advisory team will be able to consider a no-build
recommendation at each stage of the freeway route selection process.
The first opportunity to opt for not building the
freeway will come up in the next few months when the advisory team decides on a
freeway alignment recommendation for the western leg of the project. The team
has three major routes to select from with the freeway demolishing between 120
and 780 homes depending on the route.
The advisory team will also be able to elect to
recommend not building the freeway later in 2006 when it will be asked to pick a
route on the east side of the project, through Ahwatukee Foothills.
The only route available now is along Pecos Road where
between 255 and 659 homes would have to be eliminated depending on if the
freeway were built at ground level or below ground level to reduce noise.
The advisory team meets in Komatke at the community
center in the learning center's meeting hall from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Jan. 5. The
meeting is open to the public although participation is limited.
The reporter can be reached at (480)
898-7914 or by e-mail at email@example.com.