Valley leaders worry about new freeway's cost
Tolleson officials fear catastrophic impact on community
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 8, 2006 12:00 AM
Southwest Valley business and political leaders
are worried by a new report showing that the proposed South Mountain Freeway
could be at least a temporary economic drain on their towns.
Though transportation experts say the freeway's long-term economic benefits
could far outweigh the initial costs, officials say they will fight to prevent
the business and tax revenue losses the freeway could cause.
"It would be catastrophic to our community," Tolleson City Manager
Reyes Medrano Jr. said. "We consider this a major threat to our existence
as an incorporated city."
The report released Thursday by the Arizona
Department of Transportation shows Tolleson, Avondale and Phoenix could lose
millions in sales and property taxes from existing and projected development if
the freeway goes through their cities.
The 22- to 26-mile road would complete Loop 202 and link Interstate 10 in the
west and east, bypassing Phoenix. ADOT planners want to join the freeway's
western portion to I-10 at 55th Avenue, 71st Avenue or Loop 101.
Depending on where the western leg goes, the freeway could displace some major
Valley employers, including Fry's Food and Drug, Home Depot, Western Container
Corp. and Holsum Bakery. ADOT pays for relocation expenses, but hasn't yet said
how much the moves would cost.
In the case of tiny cities like Tolleson, where no land is left for a large
business to relocate to if displaced, the loss of these companies - and the blow
to the community - could be permanent.
If engineers choose the Loop 101 alignment, up to 30 percent of Tolleson's tax
base could be eliminated, according to city estimates.
Whether or not the 6-square-mile city could remain independent despite the loss
of those businesses is "the $64,000 question," Medrano said. "I
doubt seriously that we'd be able to."
Once a final alignment is determined, ADOT would like to start purchasing land
in 2008, start building in 2009 and finish by 2015.
By the time the area reaches build-out in about 2030, the Loop 101 alignment
could cost Phoenix, Avondale and Tolleson a combined $23.3 million annually in
lost property and sales taxes.
"It would mean a loss of those dollars that perhaps we could use for other
services that are greatly needed, especially as a growing community," said
Avondale Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers. The city is opposing that route, she said.
The other two alignments would run only through Phoenix. By build-out, the city
could lose at least $21 million in taxes a year from the 55th Avenue alignment,
and $10.5 million annually from the 71st Avenue link.
ADOT argues that the savings in travel time would make up for the cities' tax
"There are real costs associated with travel time, productivity, worker
availability, freight inventory, logistics, just-in-time production and market
access," the report stated. "The savings in time for the traveling
public is valued at over $400 million per year if the South Mountain Freeway is
Planners also point to the explosive economic growth that other Valley cities
have seen when a freeway comes through their area. . For those who would be
bumped by the freeway, it's a less-than-comforting thought.
"We picked this because it was a very desirable location," said Holsum
Bakery President Ed Eisele, whose 7-year-old plant would be demolished if the
Loop 101 route came through.