Creative solutions can solve
The current discussion regarding building the South
Mountain Freeway centers around three options:
1. Build the freeway along Pecos Road, where it was
planned 20 years ago
2. Negotiate a deal with the Gila River Indian
Community and build the freeway south of the original location
3. Don't build this leg of the freeway at all.
The pros and cons of each of these are many and both
sides of the debate have valid points. The reality of the situation is that none
of the three meet the actual objectives of the project.
Let's look at the two most compelling needs that need
to be satisfied:
* Provide relief to the heavy traffic on I-10.
* Provide an alternate route for travel between the
Southwest and Southeast Valley.
Option 1 appears to satisfy both of these objectives,
but not completely. When the plans were set 20 years ago, no one would have
predicted the current level of growth in the Southwest and far West Valley.
Connecting the South Mountain Freeway to the I-10 through Laveen or even
Avondale only gives partial relief to the heavy traffic coming into Phoenix from
Goodyear and Buckeye. A more effective I-10 bypass would have to begin much
further west than the currently proposed alignment.
Option 2 also appears to meet the stated objectives,
but in addition to the concern stated on Option 1, this is currently not an
option. The Gila River Indian Community leaders have not expressed an interest
in negotiating an agreement with the Arizona Department of Transportation and
have little reason to start now. They are focused on development opportunities
along I-10 and are not short of commercial development opportunities. They
appear to be focused on their entertainment and resort ventures and those are
concentrated along I-10.
Option 3 ignores the problem; and we all know that
transportation problems in the Valley do not go away. They just become larger
and more expensive.
As with most things these days, the answers are not
always the most obvious. Creative solutions are often called for to overcome our
challenges. If you take the two stated objectives and look at them separately, a
very different picture emerges.
In order to provide relief to the heavy traffic on
I-10, the better long-term solution is to provide an alternative route for I-10
east/west through-traffic. This could be accomplished by building an I-10 bypass
route along state Route 85 running from Buckeye to Interstate 8 at Gila Bend.
This traffic would avoid the majority of the highly populated areas of the
Valley and provide economic development opportunities for both Buckeye and Gila
Bend. This alignment is not across tribal land and the majority of the traffic
noise would be away from highly populated areas.
As for the route between the Southwest and Southeast
Valley, Pecos Road could be continued around South Mountain to the 51st Avenue
alignment. The road could be constructed to meet local traffic demands as a
four-lane "parkway" complete with stoplights and other features that
help maintain a speed not to exceed 50 mph. There would still be some issues
regarding either crossing tribal land or South Mountain Park land, but that
would be greatly reduced since the road would not be the 10-lane freeway
currently proposed but a much smaller parkway. The parkway and reduced speed
would discourage truckers and other through-traffic from jumping off I-10 and
using this as a relief route.
2005 Not 1985
The original South Mountain Freeway proposal may have
made sense to planners 20 years ago, but the reality today is that the metro
region is rapidly shifting west. The current proposal does not meet the
transportation needs today and will only be compounded with the future growth.
With appropriate signage around a Gila Bend route, the
traffic between Texas and California could be directed away from most of the
metro's residential neighborhoods and downtown Phoenix. Local commuter traffic
would not need to compete with interstate traffic. And with the South Mountain
Parkway, the world's largest cul-de-sac (Ahwatukee) would finally be connected
to their neighbors in the West Valley.