Monday, June 8, 2009

Loop 202 News

Here's a message from ADOT Spokesperson, Timothy Tait, offered as a follow-up to concerns from residents after the Local Laveen Summit last month:

At this point, ADOT is awaiting direction from the leaders of the region on how to proceed forward. While a freeway has been proposed up to this point, we recognize that this may change into a different type of roadway. "What" is not decision of ADOT, but of the leaders of the region through the Maricopa Association of Governments. ADOT doesn't plan Valley freeways -- rather, we serve to complete the formal studies, design, construct and maintain the network.

South Mountain does have a long history. ADOT completed the first environmental study in 1988 before regional funding fell short and the freeway was removed from the planned highway network. Through the 2004 vote in Maricopa County, ADOT again received funding to study the South Mountain Freeway in 2006. Like any Environmental Impact Statement for a long, complex project, this study has taken time. At the time we were stopped because of the roadway-configuration debate, the study was on track for release this summer. That, obviously, cannot happen at this time. Any change from the 10-lane freeway concept will require some degree of reanalysis to conform with all federal regulations, since this is a Federal Aid project.

Another take (or two) on this issue:

Mr. Tait's statement above was prompted by emails from two Laveen residents, one of whom has been a member of the community for several decades and the other a more recent addition. Each had a different perspective on why we need to make the Loop 202 freeway a reality in our community.

One of the residents, Mary, moved to Laveen a few years ago (as did I). She did not move to Laveen because of its past heritage, but because of the proximity to downtown Phoenix and availability of nice new homes, golf courses, and the promise of future development. Mary is concerned about Laveen's economic growth and sees the freeway as a way to spur this growth, as well as provide a bypass for the I-10 freeway through Phoenix.

Shelley has been in Laveen since the 1960s and has seen the community grow exponentially in recent years. She does live here for the ranch lifestyle, but sees the freeway as a much needed reliever for all the traffic that our recent growth has brought upon the community. She cites the fact that many "old Laveen" residents share her view, despite the very vocal few who essentially deny our growth trajectory as a reality. She notes that, "Our growth is a fact of life and with it comes the need for better transportation." Furthermore, she points out that we need to get the already busy bypass traffic off of 51st Avenue and onto a freeway.

My take

It's interesting....well, interesting to me at least: I initially thought that I couldn't offer a new perspective to those posted above. But after I drafted my response, I think I came up with something of a judicious and refreshing addition to the discussion (oh please, stop with the flattery). If you have been reading my blog posts, then you already know that I'm something of a "big picture" thinker; in which case my viewpoints will not likely surprise you.

I feel that both Mary and Shelley are correct in their assessments about Laveen's transportation needs. We have experienced significant residential growth in recent years and are poised for even more thanks to our proximity to Phoenix's central business district (and ASU, the airport, Glendale, etc.). Furthermore, we are well positioned to cultivate our ongoing growth into a great new model for a suburban community, building on the plans already hotly debated and settled (hopefully), thanks to groups like the LCRD and the city-county collaboration that resulted in the Southwest Regional Growth Study (see link on the side-bar of this page). Laveen is and always has been a rural community, and our master plan of record would ensure that this remains true as we welcome even more residents and businesses.

At a time that our metropolitan region exemplifies and amplifies the housing crisis affecting our country, people are becoming more selective in their choice of residence because they now have more options than ever. Again and again, research and intuition collide in acknowledging culture and character as some of the toughest qualities to break and some of the most important to people. Therefore, I hope that Laveen will continue growing to provide modern conveniences while maintaining a unique character and proud legacy (note: look to the series of highly critical articles that The Economist published back in 2005-2006 about Phoenix and Scottsdale).

If we don't preserve something of the old Laveen--and build upon projects that celebrate its history--we offer very little to future investors besides proximity to downtown, the airport, or the South Mountain foothills. So, while our master plan helps to preserve Laveen's character, the completion of a local freeway helps connect us to the rest of Phoenix, thus enabling Laveen to better complement all of the other communities that make up this ever-growing city and huge metropolis. So while it provides a much needed local commuter route and a regional bypass, the Loop 202 South Mountain alignment also makes possible such regionally important developments as a hospital, a super-regional shopping center or two, additional office space, and the ancilliary employment that supports the above--all coincidentally slated for Laveen, but benefiting the rest of the region as well.


So what do we need to do? Well, for those of us with our feet firmly planted here, the answer is clear. We need to do what we can to advocate for the continuation of all Loop 202 studies and the eventual completion of the South Mountain Corridor, whether it be a freeway, parkway, or a major thoroughfare by any other name. I'll follow up on this soon, but for now, I would recommend contacting your MAG representatives (political representatives, not staff). Also, make sure you tell your friends to do the same. If you know anyone in Michael Nowakowski or Mary Rose Wilcox's office, then by all means call them. Be the squeaky wheel; you might be surprised at how receptive both offices are.

*If you are the diplomatic type, then please help your pitifully misguided friends and family in Ahwatukee understand that they too should support the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway. Very few houses stand in the way of the proposed freeway's path, and those that do shouldn't have been built anyhow. Plus, imagine how convenient it will be when our friends at Club West can take advantage of our new retail and hospital, neither of which will likely come to Ahwatukee anytime soon without the freeway.

*And one more thing.... I've heard that Mayor Phil Gordon does not support the freeway. If this is in fact true, then I beg you to convince him otherwise. I think it's absolutely insane that Mr. Gordon would stand on the wrong side of this issue. Even if he prefers the support of Ahwatukee to that of Laveen, I would think he could benefit from the job creation that could come from the Loop 202--both short and long-term.

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