Friday, July 1, 2011

Let's Keep Our Infrastructure Smart

We're all well aware of the proposed Loop 202, right? It is generally regarded as the key to Laveen's future in many ways, and we know that policy makers at the local, state, and federal level hold that key. As we've discussed repeatedly in the past, the freeway is probably the only way we will see our hospital plans come to fruition. It is also the only way to justify the development of any large retail and entertainment centers, such as Laveen Spectrum, or any substantial employers locating in the area. And if we want to get far more pie-in-the-sky in our thinking, how about a major league Spring Training facility in Laveen. This idea seems far-fetched now, but it has been proposed and a freeway can only help make it a reality. In other words, the Loop 202 freeway means huge economic growth for Laveen and Phoenix as a whole.

But there are other ways, too, that we can build Laveen and "they will come." We need continued development of transportation options besides the Loop 202 freeway, such as extended bus service and better surface street flow in heavy traffic corridors, or even better alternatives (hint: look up AZ Route 801 and consider it expanding eastward). We need connectivity for our sidewalks and biking/horseback riding paths, as well as safety in integrating all of the above. We need to build the additional schools we were promised and maintain or improve performance as the Laveen Elementary School District grows. In short, we need to catch up with the urbanization/suburbanization of Laveen to make our village more livable for all our residents.

My family chose the Rogers Ranch area, north of 47th Avenue and Baseline, when we decided to settle in Laveen in 2005. We liked the area for its proximity to the only neighborhood shopping at the time, as well as the proposed Rogers Ranch Elementary School and the LACC green belt network. We selected this neighborhood because we thought it was quite walkable and bike-friendly, and it would be a great place to grow as a family. We had the added benefit of being a comfortable distance from the freeway that would eventually be built a little over a mile west of us and all the amenities it would bring. While we were mostly right about our assumptions, we've had to be very patient over the years.... Sound familiar?

Just yesterday, Councilman Michael Nowakowski announced a major victory for people in Laveen relying on bus service: Thanks in large part to his office, Route 77 on Baseline is finally going to extend west to 75th Avenue, which opens up bus service to thousands of additional Laveen residents. This announcement comes on the heels of a lesser victory in mass transit for our village, which is a park and ride facility planned for the corner of 27th Ave. and Baseline. While many will benefit from this park and ride facility, I completely fail to understand its placement -- it was a "me too" project for our village, which even Valley Metro and Phoenix Transit officials admitted would have been better placed on the empty parcel adjacent to Cesar Chavez Park (coincidentally almost identical in its dimensions to the parcel on 27th). Near the park, an expanded transit facility could have doubled in off-peak hours and weekends as an amenity to the park itself, while also serving the library, school, and helping to promote increased connectivity for existing and future commercial development. But instead we get part of the solution we need and must make do.

Please don't get me wrong. I am always grateful when we see improvements that will directly and indirectly benefit us here, but I still ask that Laveen residents demand more from our leadership. For starters, let's continue to demand more in the way of mass transit access for our neighbors, as well as demanding other community amenities -- even the small stuff, where victories may come easier. Our new skate park? Awesome! But how's that community center coming along, or South Mountain trail access? Sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and other improved traffic control measures? Yes, thanks for the road expansion and sidewalk now being constructed on Baseline west of 47th, but can we please speed up these projects a little more? Let's provide safe pedestrian crossings at every intersection of our urban trail system and a major road (you'll understand if you've ever tried to cross 51st Ave. at the LACC crossing). Park and ride? Let's make it better -- move it a mile west. Loop 202? All we're asking is for a more galvanized support base from our representatives. Let's get these projects going so that we can realize the benefits sooner rather than later.

To be continued....

1 comment:

PTB said...

FYI, please attend any and all public meetings about these issues. Here's the link for information about changes to our transit system: