advisory team delays no-build debate
By Doug Murphy
After agreeing to consider the no-build option along
each step of the decision-making process, a South Mountain Freeway advisory
panel abandoned that mind-set last week with a little prodding from a consultant
hired to help the committee reach a consensus.
"Until you know what you want to build, or what
someone else wants to build, how do you know if you want it?" Theresa Gunn,
of Peoria-based Gunn Communications, asked the advisory team.
The South Mountain Citizens Advisory Team is under
pressure to announce a west-side route for the proposed South Mountain Freeway
so developers and city officials will know where the freeway could go.
The west-side corridor will join with the proposed
Pecos Road route in the East Valley and connect the freeway with Interstate 10
on both sides of the Valley.
The panel's decision will go to the Arizona Department
of Transportation, which could accept or modify the proposal as part of its
presentation to the Federal Highway Administration for final approval on the
Currently there are three possible west-side routes
that lie between 55th Avenue and the Loop 101 interchange. Depending on which
route is selected, between 120 and 780 homes or home sites would have to be
bought by the state.
Laurel Arndt, a member of both the advisory team and
the Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee, wanted to consider not
building the project as an option when the advisory team sits down to look at
the west side later this month.
"What are we really solving with this bypass
proposal?" she asked.
Many people consider the South Mountain Freeway as
nothing more than a truck bypass around downtown Phoenix. Others say the freeway
is needed to relieve congestion on the I-10 and the Broadway curve.
The consensus at the Jan. 5 advisory meeting was that a
western route would be selected later this month or early in February, followed
by the Ahwatukee Foothills' portion of the route in nine months. Once the full
route had been tentatively agreed upon the advisory team would then consider the
On the east side, the only route at the moment is along
Pecos Road, first identified in 1988. The delay in finalizing the route is to
give the Gila River Indian Community time to decide if it would allow the
freeway on Indian land.
But a route along the Indian Community land might not
be a magical solution that eliminates all concerns.
Advisory team member Kris Black, who represents The
Foothills Homeowners Association, pointed out that if the freeway is built on
Indian land, it would probably be very close to the current Pecos Road, which
would bring almost the same noise and air pollution concerns as if it were built
on Pecos Road.
"I don't think people understand that," Black
But if there is no route on tribal land, a no-build
option could win out for the entire project.
"Maybe if there is no option from the Gila River
Indian Community we could go with no build," suggested Peggy Eastburn, a
member of the advisory team and the Estrella Village Planning Committee.