all in our cars and in this South Mtn. Freeway saga together
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 28, 2006 12:00 AM
If an Ahwatukee Foothills resident drives a car,
does he or she have the moral high ground to fight a freeway? If anyone in this
Valley, for that matter, drives a car, isn't that person a part of the problem
we're all facing? In the interest of full disclosure, yes, the editorial
"we" at The Ahwatukee Republic drive
cars. We are in this with everyone.
As the saga of where and whether to build the South Mountain Freeway continues,
maybe the planning process needs to be studied for a larger lesson than who's at
Sure, it's easy and tempting to cast blame for the untenable position Ahwatukee
residents find themselves in. Some blame the Arizona Department of
Transportation for not buying all the rights of way, but that is unfair. ADOT
bought land right up until the Maricopa Association of Governments said stop.
MAG said stop during the 1990s because sales tax revenues funding the freeways
had fallen. Priority decisions were made, and the South Mountain Freeway fell
off the active list.
Some blame Phoenix for authorizing zoning and
building permits. Phoenix officials will counter that it's hard to stop property
owners from building on private land. Sort of goes against the tenet of property
rights. But still, the purpose of city zoning is to ensure the proper kind of
development. Maybe Phoenix should shoulder a part of the responsibility for the
difficult decision ahead of us.
Others blame developers who turned stretches of land along Pecos Road into
houses and a church. But as long as real estate disclosure laws were obeyed,
developers broke no rules.
Some might blame homebuyers who ignored the signs - literally and figuratively -
that a freeway might come through their neighborhood. Indeed, as this debate
continues, people still are building houses in west Ahwatukee, knowing full well
that a freeway might fall where they stand. Who takes the blame for that cost?
And when Ahwatukee residents get on a freeway to travel around the Valley, they
are driving past neighborhoods that were forever altered by that road. Why is
that fate OK for others but not for us?
In the decades-long planning of the South Mountain Freeway, many people and
agencies have touched the project. Now we are at the squeeze-play point where
all factions are clamoring. Some to build, some not to. Some to pressure the
Gila River Indian Community for a solution.
Maybe it is time to look at the greater lesson: We drive too much. We have too
few public transportation options, and many of us would not use them if we had
them. We like our cars, our privacy and our CD player as we drive along, bumper
to bumper with thousands of other one-occupant cars, bemoaning the lack of road
As soon as freeway asphalt is laid, it seems the lanes fill.
Maybe we take the $2.4 billion lesson of the South Mountain Freeway and ask a
new question: What will it take for us to get out of our cars?