ADOT dumps 99th Avenue option for South Mountain
West Valley View
The proposed 99th Avenue alignment
of the future South Mountain Freeway has been tossed, but a new concern has
arisen in Avondale over the future reconstruction of the Loop 101-Interstate 10
The 99th Avenue alignment would be
too disruptive to the local economy, said Matt Burdick, spokesman for the
Arizona Department of Transportation. Burdick announced that decision the
evening of March 6 during an Avondale City Council meeting.
The state Department of
Transportation has the responsibility of drawing up the plan for the freeway
lanes that would connect Loop 202 on the south end of the Valley of the Sun with
Interstate 10, somewhere west of downtown Phoenix.
That “somewhere” has been the
subject of concern in the Southwest Valley, where officials in Avondale and
Tolleson have worried about the disruption to businesses along the proposed 99th
An advisory committee to the state
Department of Transportation recently concluded that the 99th alignment could
destroy the economy of Tolleson, a small community between west Phoenix and
Avondale that has a concentration of warehouses in the area.
The western edge of Avondale’s
AutoMall would have to be bulldozed if that alignment were used.
The concern for Avondale now shifts
to how the Loop 101-Interstate 10 interchange will be fashioned.
The so-called “partial
reconstruction” proposal would leave intact the current access at McDowell
Road and Loop 101. But the so-called “Full Reconstruction Alternative” would
eliminate the McDowell Road access, requiring motorists on Loop 101 who wish to
visit the retail centers at 99th Avenue and McDowell to exit a mile north.
“When you talk about full
reconstruction, that kills everything on McDowell Road, in my opinion,”
Councilman Jason Earp said. “People aren’t going to want to drive a mile
north and then come back to eat or go to a movie.”
David Fitzhugh, Avondale’s
assistant city manager, agreed. In a report to the City Council, Fitzhugh
stated, “This alternative would affect three of Avondale’s most important
sales tax generators — the 313,000-square-foot Gateway Crossing retail center
and the 745,000-square-foot Gateway Pavilion power center, and the Avondale
AutoMall, the city of Avondale’s largest single source of sales tax
“This alternative also directly
impacts two existing auto dealerships and potentially affects access to those
remaining,” Fitzhugh said. “Based on review of the aerial photographs, the
proposed interchange appears to eliminate the existing private road, Dealer
Drive, which provides primary access to the dealerships.”
The AutoMall generates about 20
percent of Avondale’s sales tax revenue, Fitzhugh said, all of which go to
basics services such as parks, libraries and critical services such as police
and fire protection.
“Not only would this alternative
be devastating to the commercial and employment corridors adjacent to the
freeway between 99th Avenue and Avondale Boulevard, it would also drive away the
potential for future commercial and employment ventures that are attracted by
the ease of access to the freeways,” Fitzhugh predicted.
The state Department of
Transportation anticipates making a decision on the issue this spring.
Construction isn’t expected to begin until 2009.
“Who makes the ultimate
decision?” Earp asked.
State transportation director
Victor Mendez will decide whether to allow the final plan to go forward to the
Maricopa Association of Governments, a regional planning authority made up of
Maricopa County and most of the municipalities in the county, Burdick said.
Because federal money will pay for
part of the South Mountain Freeway, the Federal Highway Administration also will
have a say in how and where the South Mountain gets built, Burdick said.
Daniel Burnette can be reached by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.