Freeway deadline extended
Tolleson residents who anxiously have been awaiting the Citizen Advisory Team’s decision on whether the South Mountain Freeway will cut through their city are going to have to wait a little longer.
The Arizona Department of
Transportation has extended the March 30 deadline for the committee’s
recommendation by nearly a month, ADOT spokesman Matt Burdick said.
“We’re asking the Citizen
Advisory Team on April 27 to give us their input on the choices that exist in
the West Valley,” Burdick said. “It’s pretty complicated because there are
so many different moving parts to a decision like this. You have to weigh all
the social issues, the economic issues, the technical issues from an engineering
standpoint and the environmental issues along with the public input.”
Some of that public input came from
two open houses staged March 7 and 8, during which ADOT unveiled designs
depicting how each alternative would alter I-10’s existing on-ramp/off-ramp
“In some cases, some of those
on-ramps might not feed directly onto the freeway anymore,” Burdick said.
“They may be an access road type of system like you have over at the 101 and
I-10, where at 99th and 91st avenues you have access roads.”
Connecting the South Mountain
Freeway at Loop 101 potentially could remove access to I-10 from 99th Avenue, in
addition to requiring reconstruction of the I-10/Loop 101 interchange ramps,
ADOT revealed at the open houses that were held at Holiday Inn Phoenix West and
Santa Maria Middle School.
The 71st Avenue connection would
change access to I-10 between 59th and 83rd avenues, as well as limit local
access at the 59th and 83rd onramps, according to ADOT.
The 55th Avenue alignment would
change existing access to I-10 between 43rd and 67th avenues in addition to
limiting local access at the existing 43rd and 67th onramps, ADOT reported.
Although the open houses were the
final public forums before the Citizen Advisory Team will make its
recommendation, they weren’t the last chance for citizens to register their
concerns about the upcoming project, Burdick said
“We’ll take input all the way
through the issuance of a draft report,” he said. “Even then, once we issue
that draft report, there’s a public comment period that’s extended. And
then, after we do that draft report and take in all the public comments, then
basically we are at a point of addressing or responding to all the public
comment we’ve heard. And then we put together a final report, and there’s
one last opportunity for comment. So there’s still plenty of time for
set in stone
There’s also plenty of room for
The Citizen Advisory Team’s
recommendation will be just that: a recommendation, Burdick explained. ADOT may
or may not go with its suggestion, and even then it could switch gears at any
point, he said.
“The input we get from the
Citizen Advisory Team is part of a larger scale of input we’re receiving on
the project,” Burdick said. “It’s just one facet of recommendations, if
you will. There will be other input we’ll include from the public, from
business owners, from local cities and from interest groups. So it’s not that
we’ll just go by whatever the Citizen Advisory Team tells us to do. But they
have been involved, and they’re probably amongst the most knowledgeable about
ADOT intends to make its initial
decision in May or June, after which it will begin work on the preliminary
draft, Burdick said. ADOT’s goal is to have the final report ready to go by
the fall of 2007, he said.
“Nothing will be set in stone
until then,” Burdick said. “But we’re still putting a lot into the initial
decision, because one thing we don’t want to do is announce, ‘This is
probably the best location’ and then change and go to a different place.
It’s too important to too many people.”
That became evident in November
2005, when ADOT hosted a series of meetings to gauge public opinion on which of
the three alignments to go with. Hundreds of people turned out to voice their
opinions on the three proposed alignments, each of which will require the
bulldozing of several homes and businesses.
To make room for the Loop 101
option, ADOT would be forced to oust between 10 and 15 businesses and somewhere
between 240 and 530 homes in Tolleson; the 55th Avenue alignment would displace
120 houses and 78 businesses; and the 71st Avenue option would drive away 780
houses and 15 businesses.
“A majority of the people we’ve
heard from aren’t in support of the 71st Avenue option,” Burdick said.
“The comments on 55th Avenue and the 101 have pretty much been split. Some
like it and some don’t. And those who don’t like one option tend to like the
other option. Basically, everyone wants it, but they want it at the other
Turbulence in Tolleson
Such is the case in Tolleson, where
in addition to numerous homes and businesses, Tolleson Union High School and
several industrial hubs would have to be eradicated to make room for the Loop
For those reasons, a group of
concerned residents has been championing the 55th Avenue option, which was
ADOT’s original choice when it first drew up plans in 1988.
Burdick blames the lack of go-ahead
funding in the ’80s for causing the current uproar.
“A lot has changed since 1988,”
he said. “Back then, we approved an alignment that would have gone through the
Laveen area that would have resulted in considerably less concerns. But a lot
more homes have been built since then, and a lot more are currently being
“That’s one of the reasons
we’re trying to reach a decision as soon as we can: because, for new
developments that are either planned or going in now, people can have some
indication of where it’s going to go,” he continued. “That way we could
work more closely with the people who will be affected; and for the people who
live in the areas where it won’t go, they can move on with their lives.”
Residents who wish to register
their opinions on the South Mountain Freeway alignments can do so at
John Machay can be reached by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.