will choose a possible link for west Loop 202
Recommendation will go to ADOT
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 27, 2006 12:00 AM
A citizen advisory panel will vote tonight on
which of three proposed alignments should serve as the western connection for
the proposed South Mountain Freeway.
Its recommendation, one of several factors the Arizona Department of
Transportation will consider before making a final decision on the western
alignment, comes amid divided public opinion on where the freeway should go.
Cities that could absorb the freeway's asphalt firmly support the original
alignment at 55th Avenue. Owners and occupants of the hundreds of homes and
businesses each route would displace are divided among the three.
One thing is clear: No solution is going to make
"It's an unavoidable consequence of building a new freeway in a developed
area," said Tom Callow, senior executive assistant to the Phoenix city
manager. "I think we all wish this had been done many years ago."
The proposed South Mountain Freeway would connect to Interstate 10 in the West
Valley and south of Ahwatukee Foothills, bypassing downtown Phoenix. The 22- to
26-mile highway would complete Loop 202, at an estimated cost of up to $2.4
The original alignment approved by the Maricopa Association of Governments in
1988 routed the freeway along 55th Avenue, curving east at the western end of
South Mountain Park and running down Pecos Road before rejoining I-10.
Since launching a new study of the project in 2001, ADOT has proposed linking
the western leg of the proposed highway to I-10 at 55th Avenue, 71st Avenue or
at Loop 101.
Though a final decision on the freeway won't come until fall 2007, anxious West
Valley cities and developers have appealed to ADOT to settle the debate on where
the western leg will go. ADOT plans to announce the freeway's west side location
The original alignment is still the official preference of Phoenix and MAG,
which has the final say on where the road will go. The city has left some land
along that route undeveloped in anticipation of a freeway.
"We haven't drawn up a plan B of what to do if this doesn't pass,"
Several West Valley cities have also passed resolutions in favor of the 55th
Avenue alignment in recent months, out of concern that the alternatives could
hurt their towns.
Tolleson, a city of only 6 square miles, could lose up to 370 acres if the South
Mountain Freeway connects at Loop 101. The city has vigorously fought against
"That would kill our community," Mayor Adolfo Gamez said.
"Phoenix is the only alternative they should be considering."
The South Mountain Citizens Advisory Team was formed in 2002 to serve as a
volunteer advisory panel representing various geographic areas and interests.
Tonight, the group will rank the importance of several freeway-related
characteristics, such as cost and community impacts, and then vote on how well
each alignment meets those qualifications.
The team will reconvene after a summer hiatus to debate the freeway's location
in Ahwatukee, where opposition to the freeway is strong.
No consensus exists among the team's members.
"After all I have learned, I don't think the 55th (Avenue plan) is the
best," said Peggy Eastburn, chair of the Estrella Village Planning
Committee and an advisory team member. "This is going to be crammed down
our throat because of the political backing on this."
Though Avondale City Council and advisory team member Jim Buster said he
personally believes that a version of the Loop 101 connection is best, he will
adhere to Avondale's recommendation for the 55th Avenue alignment.
"All we're doing is stating a preference, and (the Federal Highway
Administration) and ADOT will go from there," he said. "It's past time
for giving a recommendation."