gets a jump on development
Agency learns from previous freeway mistakes
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 17, 2006 12:00 AM
in the South Mountain Freeway planning process have taught the Arizona
Department of Transportation some lessons now being applied to new construction
projects, the agency's chief said.
"We should have bought the right-of-way 20 years ago," ADOT director
Victor Mendez said of the now-cluttered corridor where ADOT wants to place Loop
Those lessons come too late for neighborhoods in Ahwatukee Foothills and the
West Valley threatened by the South Mountain Freeway. However, in response to
public outcry in those areas, ADOT is now moving aggressively to purchase land
for new roads planned in the West Valley, years before construction is scheduled
Mendez made his
comments at a meeting Wednesday with The
Arizona Republic, where he and other ADOT officials gave updates on
projects planned throughout the Valley.
He also talked about the agency's discussions with the Gila River Indian
Community on potential placement of the South Mountain Freeway's southern leg on
Current plans call for the freeway to connect to Interstate 10 at Pecos Road in
the south and at 55th Avenue, 71st Avenue or Loop 101 in the west.
Mendez said he recently met with newly installed Gila community Gov. William
Rhodes for an introductory meeting. About three weeks ago, he wrote an official
follow-up letter to Rhodes asking how the community would like to proceed with
negotiations on a number of issues, including the widening of I-10 through the
reservation. He has not received a reply.
The agency is eager to assure the Gila River community that the tribe's position
on the South Mountain Freeway will not affect other projects the community wants
on its land.
"We are not linking I-10 widening issues with South Mountain issues,"
Mendez said. He said ADOT would be willing to negotiate with the Gila River
community on a South Mountain Freeway alignment up until the "last
minute," though he would not specify when that deadline would be.
Questioned about the likelihood of the South Mountain Freeway not being built,
Mendez said that is still technically an option.
"From a purely technical standpoint . . . there's two options: no build and
Pecos Road," Mendez said.
However, "if you look at the regional needs, there's going to be some
discussion on that," he said. "If you think the Broadway curve is bad
right now, it's going to get worse."