William Ramsey’s letter, “No Build South Mountain” (AFN, March 2), was one of the more logical reviews of the issue I have read. Attending the so-called public meetings of the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) or Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), I have seen how little public comment means relating to an issue. I noticed reports are a formality and often show no interest in real-life problems.
Back in the ’70s when I rode across the South Mountain I visualized community growth. Some we have today to the south exceeds my hopes, to the north leaves years of disappointment. My sense of justice asks, “Why?” All the way to McDowell we find much of what comes of neglect following a Boomtown that lost its magnet. What was the problem, the same great climate, the jobs were near but yet the investments and roads were all to the fringe of the city that had offered so much before. Urban sprawl, the opportunity for a fast buck, then move on and on. Leaving blight, failed small businesses, empty public buildings, long commutes, more pollution and costs.
Moving cities not traffic had become the objective of ADOT, later MAG and East Valley movers and shakers. The automobile gave them the opportunity to avoid the cost of developing the inner city. South Mountain Freeway is another to heck with the people project. It is wrong for many reasons. Some pointed out by Mr. Ramsey.
Travel Baseline Road west after seeing where U.S. 60 dumps traffic, north with Interstate 10, there is the congestion problem. Not a road to Avondale. Travel west on Baseline, note the flat developable land and sparse new construction. Off to the south, residential and recreational opportunities. To the north new developments all the way into town or the airport there are opportunities for urban renewal. Developers spend more for raw state or BLM land than it would cost them to restore parts of south Phoenix; help the middle-class working community. Developers elsewhere are required to plan for mass transit and community centers. As an incentive the future could call for light rail to go south of the airport and continue southeast.
MAG and ADOT are planning to repeat growth that has not been healthy and/or wise. We need to restore Phoenix as the heart of the Valley. Open it for tourist, and yes, too much distance can turn off even retirees. Extending the Loop 202 will do little to relieve today’s traffic problems. High polluting cross-country traffic in particular could use Interstate 8 to an improved Route 85 north to Buckeye, then west on 1-10. That would remove a major source of pollution and congestion.
Cross-country traffic that is going to south California bypasses Phoenix on Interstate 8. Let’s encourage the same for the Los Angles areas. Another north-south road or rail may play a part in the future before Loop 202 would be complete. We do not need eight more lanes on I-10 from U.S. 60 through downtown Phoenix. That’s ADOT’s present plan. Some want to use that congestion as an excuse for toll roads.
Big cross-country trucks should be restricted from using it north or south of South Mountain Park. An extension of U.S. 60 over and beyond I-10 along Baseline would relieve the problem.
Richard T. Tracy, Sr.
Former chair of Phoenix Mountains
Preserve Council (1972-1981)