Arizona Department of Transportation engineers and other experts got kudos and brickbats thrown their way as about 80 residents on May 22 looked over plans for the possible addition of a 32nd Street interchange along the South Mountain Freeway.
While some residents near the interchange ramps were upset by how close they were to their homes, others were relieved that an interchange would create an additional route for vehicles heading to and from Desert Vista High and other nearby schools.
ADOT spokesman Dustin Krugel said the agency is still weighing citizen input and finishing an environmental impact study before it reaches a decision on whether to add the interchange. That decision, however, likely will come in August, he said.
Krugel also stressed that even if ADOT reverses course and decides to add the interchange, it might not be added before the 22-mile freeway’s scheduled opening late next year.
State Rep. Jill Norgaard organized the open house to give residents a chance to not only learn more and weigh in on the interchange but also to get their questions answered about other issues related to the freeway.
Norgaard said she was happy with the turnout and the online feedback ADOT has received. Krugel said more than 1,200 residents have lodged their opinions.
She said she was planning to meet with ADOT today to discuss next steps.
“I always learn a lot when I attend those forums. For example, some of the homes on Redwood Court have been purchased by ADOT and they have tenants,” she said. “The purchases were based ‘hardships’ and I will be looking into what that criteria was.
“Also, the light timing on 40th Street needs to be better correlated, and the median lines need to be enhanced for better clarify,” she said, adding “the overwhelming response was that the citizens that were there that I spoke to would like the 32nd Street Interchange.”
While some were dismayed to learn that ADOT has decided it won’t need to use eminent domain and clear any homes for the interchange ramps, others said the interchange would spare Lakewood much of the traffic that would otherwise be traveling through the community.
Some residents voiced skepticism when they pressed for an explanation on why the interchange wasn’t in the construction plans in the first place. ADOT representatives said they scratched that interchange after a citizens panel and Phoenix officials expressed opposition to it.
Engineers also revealed that the 20-foot-wide multi-use path that will run alongside the southern edge of the freeway will be narrowed to 10 feet in the vicinity of 24th Street if an interchange goes in.
Meanwhile, 16 steel-reinforced girders, each 128 feet long, were installed for the freeway interchange at 24th Street.
Crews will return this summer to pour concrete to form the bridge deck and panels.
Nearly 1,100 girders will be installed on 40 bridge structures throughout the project.