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Friday, September 22, 2017

South Mountain Freeway Gains More Support

While the South Mountain Freeway continues to meet resistance from some Ahwatukee residents, support is strong in the South Mountain and Laveen Villages – as well as at the city level.

In a report to the City Council last month, the city of Phoenix Street Transportation Department recommended the Maricopa Association of Governments and Arizona Department of Transportation expedite the planning process for the South Mountain Freeway from Interstate 10 at 59th Avenue to approximately the Estrella Drive alignment.

According to Wylie Bearup, interim street transportation director for the City of Phoenix and a South Mountain Village resident, the recommendation will be acted on by the City Council at a meeting some time likely in August or September. Once that occurs, a letter will be sent to ADOT and MAG reinforcing the city’s commitment to moving forward with the project.

The South Mountain Freeway has been plagued by funding shortfalls since being approved by voters in 1985. Most recently, the approval of Proposition 400 in November 2004 secured more money for the freeway, but a final decision on the alignment is still up in the air.

In June 2007, ADOT announced the “preliminary preferred build alternative” for the South Mountain Freeway. After considering connections with Interstate 10 at 55th Avenue, 71st Avenue and the Loop 101, 55th Avenue was identified as the best route for the freeway that would essentially divide Laveen down the middle.

The decision was made following an environmental study that began in summer 2001.

Continued evaluations, however, have led to an adjusted preferred alternative alignment along 59th Avenue from Interstate 10 to roughly the Salt River. The change could result in a savings of about $125 million.

In an effort to speed up construction on the north-south portion of the freeway, the Street Transportation Department sent a letter to the State Engineer in May expressing support for the revised preferred build alternative. No comments related to the remainder of the west section south of the Salt River or east-west alignment on the other side of South Mountain were included in the letter.

A final alignment decision on the entire freeway won’t be made until ADOT completes its study of the entire South Mountain Freeway corridor.

“The City has planned the street network in the area based on an assumption of a freeway to carry significant north/south traffic,” wrote Bearup in the report. “The freeway also provides a much needed additional crossing of the Salt River. Since there is wide-spread agreement on the alignment for this section, the department would prefer that construction begin soon to take advantage of the current market conditions.”

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