freeway alignment looking likely
John Machay, staff writer
The chances of the upcoming South Mountain Freeway cutting
through Tolleson may have gotten a little greater.
Loop 101 alignment, which Tolleson has been aggressively staving off, is
one of three options that have been considered as a means of connecting
the new freeway to Interstate 10.
Tolleson’s one in three odds may have changed for the worse. The
proposed 71st Avenue alignment has been all but eliminated from
contention, said Matt Burdick, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of
can’t say it’s no longer an option,” Burdick said. “But of the
three, 71st Avenue is definitely the least likely candidate. The 55th
Avenue and Loop 101 alignments are the options that are really being
considered at this point.”
the reasons the 71st Avenue alternative has fallen out of favor is the
fact that constructing it would mean bulldozing an estimated 780 homes, a
figure that bests those of the Loop 101 and 55th Avenue alignments
combined, according to ADOT estimates.
we started this process several years ago, we asked people if they were to
build a freeway, where would they put it?” he explained. “That initial
phase predated a lot of the new home construction that’s now in place
near 71st Avenue. So, while it seemed like a viable option then, it
doesn’t as much now.”
Swayed by the public
Another factor is public opinion, which ADOT has culled
from numerous open meetings on the project in recent months, Burdick said.
gotten opinions from a lot of people and it’s been pretty much
unanimous,” he said. “Those who are within the 71st Avenue alignment
are opposed to it, and those who aren’t support connections at either
55th Avenue or the 101. The support for both is about even, although the
101 might be slightly ahead.”
not to say all of the Loop 101 supporters live near 55th Avenue.
Contributing to the West Valley alternative’s lead are Tolleson’s very
own neighbors, according to the latest report from the project’s
Citizens Advisory Team.
the Avondale, Goodyear and Buckeye residents who attended public forums in
November 2005, 70 percent voiced their support for the Loop 101 alignment,
the report reveals.
way it’s been is everyone wants the freeway as long as it’s not in
their back yard,” Burdick said. “I think that’s what’s going on
with Buckeye, Avondale and Goodyear. They want it, and having the
connection as close to them as possible makes it all that more
A city divided
But likely not for the 240 to 530 Tolleson families who
would lose their homes in the path-clearing venture, which would also take
with it Tolleson Union High School, the municipal center and up to 15
businesses, according to ADOT projections.
would also destroy “the city’s character, history and culture” and
create “a city that’s divided,” Tolleson Mayor Adolfo Gamez has
those reasons, a coalition of Tolleson leaders and residents has been
championing the 55th Avenue option. The alignment, which would displace
120 homes and 78 businesses, was ADOT’s original choice when it first
drew up plans for the freeway in 1988.
isn’t alone in its fight. Both the Avondale and Phoenix city councils
have joined the West Valley community in passing resolutions that
encourage ADOT to stick with its initial selection.
for the other side, however, is the Maricopa Association of Governments,
which has unwaveringly supported the Loop 101 option. And just last week
the anti-55th Avenue alliance picked up some ammo in the form an ADOT
study that determined a Loop 101 connection would create the smoothest
traffic flow during morning and afternoon commutes.
Still, contrary to a recently published report, the results
of the study have not persuaded ADOT to back the Loop 101 option, Burdick
certainly something that we’ll take into consideration,” he said.
“But that traffic report is one of about 30 different issues that we
have to look at. There are also some financial considerations involved.”
that money talks, that could be good news for Tolleson. The cost of land
acquisition to build a Loop 101 connector would be three times as much as
it would for the 55th Avenue alignment, Burdick said. And that doesn’t
include construction costs, which stand to dwarf 55th Avenue’s price, he
fact is if we connected at the 101, we’d have to make a lot of
improvements to the I-10,” Burdick said. “We might have to completely
rebuild the 101 connection to the I-10, or, in the best case, rebuild two
of the four ramps. So there would be a considerable cost involved.”
mulling over each site’s pros and cons for the better part of the last
four years, the Citizens Advisory Team is due to make its recommendation
to ADOT at its April 27 meeting. ADOT is expected to reveal its
preliminary decision in May or June.
the dust has settled, the South Mountain Freeway will complete the final
leg of Loop 202 and connect the West Valley to the East Valley.
Machay can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.