As one of the major thoroughfares through Ahwatukee, 48th Street is also the only roadway that runs the full length of Ahwatukee from north to south. As such, it is a vital component of the Ahwatukee road network, made all the more important as it is one of the few roads that allows access from Ahwatukee into Phoenix absent the highway system.
A significant portion of 48th Street, between the Point Parkway West traffic circle and Baseline Road, had been operated as a private road since its construction in the 1970s, and it was a portion of the road that constantly, if quietly, faced the threat of closure. However, on Jan. 6 the Phoenix City Council voted unanimously to pass a development agreement that would finally make the road a fully public street owned by the city by mid-2018.
The former owner of the road, Pointe South Mountain Business Park Association, which includes one of the city’s largest employers, Charles Schwab, had complained that despite their responsibility to maintain the private roadway most of the traffic was not from area businesses. This caused the association to raise the prospect of shutting the roadway to the public; something Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said was a very present risk.
“They could literally have shut down that road tomorrow, and not only would that have devalued our property and create a quality of life issue in Ahwatukee, most importantly, it would have created a safety issue if people had to get out of the city for some reason,” said DiCiccio. “I wanted to address this problem when I took office in 2009, and then Schwab started pushing for it because they did not like the fact that the road was in disrepair.”
The business association had pointed to an independent study that showed 80 percent of traffic on that stretch of 48th Street did not come from businesses in the vicinity. It was the “poorly functioning” road that Charles Schwab, along with 15 other businesses in the association, had pointed toward as a barrier to their expansion in that area. In order to address this, the City Council passed a resolution in July 2015 that would put the roadway into the hands of the city, an arrangement that would eventually evolve into the final agreement voted on this January. The agreement will have the city taking on the responsibility of road maintenance for the next couple of years as plans to improve upon the road and bring it up to public road standards are shaped. The most important result is that the threat of closure no longer exists, said DiCiccio.
“When I was on the council in the 1990s I had raised issues about it being a private road, but there was no inclination from the city to want to take it in, and there wasn’t either when I took office six years ago,” DiCiccio said, “but now we do not have to worry about this major road being closed to the public, after all, the public uses it so it should be public.”
The deal struck in July of last year had Charles Schwab agreeing to add 240 new jobs to the area in exchange for the road being made public, and with this new agreement Schwab has agreed to bring in another 600 jobs on top of that as the city has arranged to help the company develop a new building at 8040 S. 48th St. This new building will represent a total investment of $27 million, and the direct economic impact of the 840 new jobs is expected to amount to around $1.5 million annually for the district.
The city has allocated $500,000 for maintenance of the road over the next several years, funding that will come from the Street Transportation Department’s Capital Improvement Plan budget.
DiCiccio said 48th Street was the only such private road in Ahwatukee that had faced the threat of closure.
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