While Chad Blostone did a nice job of staying with a more fact-based discussion on the South Mountain Freeway (SMF) in his June 17 column, "Loop 202 may be a good idea, but not for the reasons stated," his discussion on traffic congestion is too simplified, as he only considers Interstate 10 between Pecos and Baseline roads. A better understanding on this issue may lead readers to a different conclusion on the need for the SMF.

To understand the regional congestion relief realized with the addition of the SMF, I am going to introduce a transportation planning term: "screen line." A screen line is an imaginary line that slices all roadways between two points. The purpose is to add traffic volumes for all the arterial streets, interstates or freeways to derive the total traffic flow between the two sides of the screen line.

In the Phoenix metropolitan area there is a narrowing of city lands between the northeast end of South Mountain and the southeast end of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. That narrowing is the choke point the MAG (Maricopa Association of Governments) planners are looking at when they say that the SMF is a "reliever" route.

One must also understand that the basis of route selection for longer distance trips is travel time, not distance. As it applies to the SMF, anyone living south of Ray Road between I-10 and Apache Junction and west of 35th Avenue south of Thomas Road between the west end of South Mountain and Buckeye is a candidate to use the SMF. Looking at the year 2030 MAG population and employment maps, this service area covers millions of residents and tens of thousands of jobs.

So, where do the 150,000-plus motorists per day estimated to use the SMF go without the it? Baseline Road, Southern Avenue, I-10, University Drive, Broadway Road, University Drive and the Loop 202 Red Mountain Freeway (RMF).

These are their only choices.

These routes are already congested and the options to add more capacity are very expensive. Think adding 10 lanes on either the Loop 202 or I-10 around the Broadway Curve is cheaper than the cost to add 10 lanes with the SMF? This is the evaluation MAG uses to addresses the "need" issue. The reality is that the cost has gone up on the SMF; but, it would still be that much more expensive to widen I-10 around the Broadway Curve or the Loop 202 between Tempe (all on a bridge in the vicinity of the Tempe Town Lane) and Phoenix.

One closing thought directed toward the use of the "Arizona Parkway" verses the "freeway" typical. It is my speculation that MAG would rather get a less expensive "parkway" type road constructed in the SMF corridor in the next 10 to 15 years then wait until the funding is available for a full freeway. In the future, interchanges and other upgrades can be added as smaller funding packages become available. This is logical given the budget issues and MAG's desire to meet its obligation to provide some meaningful congestion relief to the screen line roadways, as identified above.


Clark Clatanoff moved into the Mountain Park Ranch area in 1989.

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