weighs freeway at 55th Ave.
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 18, 2006 12:00 AM
leaders are taking a stand to protect the bread and butter of the city.
On Monday, the City Council will consider a resolution urging the state to build
the western portion of the South Mountain Freeway along 55th Avenue in Phoenix,
away from Avondale.
The proposed freeway will connect the Southeast Valley with the Southwest
One of the three options the Arizona Department
of Transportation is studying would tear down and rebuild the interchange at
Loop 101 and Interstate 10 in Avondale. The move would ax the on/off ramp for
McDowell Road, hurting business owners in the Gateway Pavilions, the Avondale
Auto Mall and the under-construction Gateway Crossing. All three centers depend
on access to and from McDowell for business.
They also are Avondale's top three sales-tax engines.
In a report to the council, Assistant City Manager Dave Fitzhugh said the Loop
101 option would not only "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."
Aerial photos of the proposed interchange at Loop 101 show the proposed freeway
could block access to the Auto Mall and absorb the northeastern corner of the
The Auto Mall represents about one-fifth of Avondale's sales-tax revenues, and
officials fear construction in the area would sink sales for dealers.
The owner of the Chevrolet dealership declined to comment. But Earnhardt Honda
Fleet Manager Austin Hyde said the freeway could affect walk-in customers.
Nonetheless, Hyde is confident the dealership could muddle through the
construction work and access changes as long as roads are replaced and rerouted
"We would just have to redirect our customers and make sure people know how
to access us," Hyde said.
Gateway Pavilions and retailers around the area could expect more of a hit
because they depend on freeway access to and from McDowell Road.
Despite the possible dent to pocketbooks and profit margins, many business
owners in the area are clueless about the possible freeway.
Rodney Verner, manager of the newly opened Family Christian Stores in Tolleson,
had no idea his store could be in the path of progress.
"McDowell Road was one of the strategies in picking this location,"
Verner said. "A lot of the places around here depend on the traffic
Like Verner, Mario Aguilar, manager of Lithium Clothing in Avondale's Gateway
Pavilions, was in the dark about freeway plans for the area.
"I don't think losing the McDowell ramp will affect us that much, but
months of construction around here would put a damper on things," he said.
ADOT has proposed connecting the western portion of the freeway to I-10 at 55th
Avenue, 71st Avenue or Loop 101. The agency, which is expected to make a
decision this summer, has been working with cities and businesses to get the
word out about the potential alignments, said ADOT spokesman Matt Burdick.
He touted the long-term economic benefits of freeways, saying cities often use
land along freeways to create retail and employment centers.