While the state continues to try to trim the proposed Loop 202 to fit a shrinking budget, Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio wants to rethink the idea by using a private group of freeway supporters and opponents to create a win/win proposal.
“We’ll put everyone in a room and come up with an alternative,” DiCiccio said Tuesday. “The purpose of the committee is to come up with a plan that all sides can agree on.”
Details were sparse, but DiCiccio made it clear that the group of nine Ahwatukee Foothills residents would have no city funding or support and was not a government-sanctioned committee.
The group, which will meet for the first time next week, will be headed by former Ahwatukee Foothills News founder and publisher Clay Schad and airline pilot Chad Blostone, who has been on an advisory team working with the state for years on this issue, according to DiCiccio.
In the end, DiCiccio said he hopes that an alternative to building the Loop 202 along the Pecos Road alignment can be found. If that occurs, DiCiccio, who is running against Dana Kennedy in a November runoff for District 6, said it will mean a victory for all sides.
On the pro-Loop 202 side, there will be a freeway that connects both sides of the Valley for work and pleasure, while others who view it as a destructive element to the Foothills may see a different plan that reduces the impact on homes and schools.
So far the Arizona Department of Transportation has been working since 2001 to select a route and create a basic design for the freeway that was first put on the books in 1985.
But skyrocketing costs, which have increased from $1 billion a few years ago to an estimated $2.47 billion today, combined with a variety of other issues, have delayed approval of the freeway. Some of the other barriers include opposition from the Gila River Indian Community; construction impact on parts of South Mountain Regional Park; and general opposition from community members to a proposed freeway that would demolish homes and pump exhaust into the air next to schools and neighborhoods.
Two developments that occurred last month include bringing back the old 1980 footprint and replacing the freeway idea with a parkway concept. Both ideas would save homes and dollars.
The changes would mean the 255 homes originally scheduled for demolition would be cut to fewer than 100. Much of the reason for this is that the size of the freeway would be cut to eight lanes.
The change also means that the overall pricetag could come down to $1.9 billion for the 24 miles freeway that links Interstate 10 at Ahwatukee Foothills and I-10 in the West Valley near 59th Avenue.
But DiCiccio doesn’t support the idea of ADOT continuing to jam a square peg into a round hole. He said he wants to find an alternative that the whole community can support.
“I’ve lived here 24 years and we’ve never been so divided,” DiCiccio said.
And while the group has no legal authority to make recommendations to ADOT, DiCiccio isn’t worried.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in the state who can push things as hard as me,” said DiCiccio.