If Ahwatukee had an anthem these days, it probably would come from AC/DC.
Only their “Highway to Hell” would be amended to read “Highway and Arterials to Hell.”
There is genuine anguish expressed by residents virtually every day on social media as they complain about the South Mountain Freeway, surface conditions of major thoroughfares like Ray Road and even side streets in Mountain Ranch and other subdivisions.
And then there’s the Chandler Boulevard Extension.
You probably already have read the front page of today’s issue and learned the news that the 1.2-mile stretch between 27th and 19th avenues, which will connect the two ends of Chandler Boulevard.
Thanks to the efforts of several local officials – notably Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio and Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee Chad Blostone – city streets officials have agreed to make it three lanes instead of two, adding bike paths on either side.
That middle lane will be used for emergency vehicles in case of accidents.
Anyone care to guess when the first one will occur once the project is completed later this year?
And does anyone want to guess how long the daily traffic jams will last during at least morning and evening rush hours once it opens?
As state Rep. Jill Norgaard observed a few months ago, it’s hard to believe the city will be spending $11.5 million to connect two four-lane sections of Chandler Boulevard with two lanes for motorists’ use.
Now, I am no traffic engineer, but many decades of driving suggest to me that when you have traffic from two lanes being diverted into one, chances are excellent for a motoring headache. Actually, more likely, a regular migraine.
Credit Blostone with getting the problem partially resolved.
I remember when a city Streets Transportation Department bureaucrat gave a presentation on the project to the committee back in August.
Even before she was finished, Blostone pounced on the problem, asking why a two-lane road was connecting a major four-lane one.
A somewhat condescending we-know-best attitude draped every reason:
That’s all the money the city has.
Studies show traffic volume doesn’t justify four lanes.
There’s no development on either side of the new road because one side is the South Mountain Preserve and the other is unsold State Trust Fund land.
There are other streets in Phoenix just like that and there’s been no problem.
Blostone challenged that last reason, asking that the department the names and locations of those streets.
Sure enough, they didn’t know, but promised to get back to him.
They kept that promise a month later, but guess what? They couldn’t find any other arterial like it.
DiCiccio told me Blostone was like a dog with a bone.
“He wouldn’t let it go,” he said, recalling how Blostone prodded and hectored even though DiCiccio had already begun pushing streets officials to reconsider.
So, after months of prodding and discussion, residents in the area have been given a bone – an important one, certainly, but a bone nevertheless.
It leaves those lingering questions, the biggest being: Why would the city do it this way?
Why would it lay down the last section of a major thoroughfare and make it narrower than the parts it was connecting?
Streets officials mentioned the absence of development. So, I guess that means when there is development, they’ll dig everything up and widen it, causing another round of disruption in a residential area where jackhammers and bulldozers from this project and the freeway already are disrupting its tranquility.
They said Phoenix can’t afford it – despite the fact that voters two years ago approved a sales tax increase that will raise $35 billion over the next 30 years.
When I asked why the Chandler Extension wasn’t among the first projects to be funded by that money, a department spokeswoman said it was never submitted to a citizens’ committee that decides priorities.
I gave up after that. It made more sense to listen to AC/DC.