many good alternatives for South Mountain Freeway
The Arizona Republic
There is no question that the Valley needs a
solution to its freeway congestion but it is incredibly obvious that aligning
the 202 along Pecos Road is not that solution. The consequences clearly outweigh
the benefits and there are too many alternatives that have not been explored or
The results of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicate that these levels of air pollution have "chronic, adverse effects on lung development in children from ages 10 to 18, leading to clinically significant deficits in respiratory function as children reach adulthood."
No amount of studies done on the benefits of this freeway can justify the exchange for human health.
The Arizona Department of Transportation's Matt Burdick stated, "We've always built freeways near schools and never heard of any problems." That is obviously a political answer to the question of pollution and safety when building a freeway within literally only a few feet of schools. His comment carries no weight and no merit. Just because "this is the way we've always done it" doesn't make it right.
Further, at a breakfast meeting with Gov. Napolitano on Jan. 17, she was asked who is actively pursuing alternatives to the South Mountain Freeway. Her answer was ADOT. I can tell you that at the Jan. 6 South Mountain Citizens Advisory Team meeting (ADOT and federal highway officials in attendance) there were no discussions of any other options, nor have there been any such discussions to this point.
Many of us put a lot of faith in the Gila River Indian Community having a "change of heart" and permitting the freeway to be built on their land. Even if they allow it, it could be literally only a few feet from the current proposed alignment. This is also not a viable alternative.
This proposed alignment would cut an 800-foot swath through the nation's largest municipal park and destroy the aesthetic and environmental balance of South Mountain Park. If you hike or bike or picnic there now, or just enjoy the view, that would all be lost, not to mention the impact to wildlife.
While proponents argue the freeway has been in the plan for 20 years, that is exactly the problem with it: It's extremely outdated. Our community has changed and grown immensely in that time and this plan is no longer valid.
Let's really consider our alternatives. First, for interstate bypass traffic, routes are already in place. State Route 85 comes off I-10 near Buckeye, goes to Gila Bend and hooks up with I-8, which connects to I-10.
By improving SR85 (maybe making it "Interstate 85"), it takes the interstate traffic off the Valley freeways and alleviates some of the congestion and pollution. It also brings economic growth to Gila Bend, especially considering its 55,000 new homes, plus businesses, slated for the very near future.
I fully agree that something needs to be done about the pollution and traffic situations in the Valley. There are many alternatives. The South Mountain Freeway is not the solution.
Ralph Guariglio is a realtor who has lived in Phoenix since 1971 and has been a resident of Ahwatukee Foothills for 11 years.