South Mountain Freeway looking more likely - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

South Mountain Freeway looking more likely

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Posted: Saturday, June 27, 2009 3:56 pm | Updated: 3:02 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Getting There: The Maricopa Association of Governments has unveiled its plans on how to build the next round of transportation infrastructure despite near-crippling economic woes

Maybe the South Mountain Freeway will get built after all.

I've gone on record saying Loop 202's last leg will never make the jump from lines on a map to lane stripes on asphalt, but recent developments may prove my prediction to be foolish.

Proposal would delay Valley highway projects

Proposed E.V. freeway might not get built

In recent weeks, the Maricopa Association of Governments has unveiled its plans on how to build the next round of transportation infrastructure despite near-crippling economic woes. Although there were cuts to proposed freeways in the East Valley and on the west side, the long-awaited South Mountain Freeway was a survivor.

But wasn't this too expensive, and wouldn't it take out too many Ahwatukee Foothills homes?

To answer the last question first, apparently not.

MAG senior engineer Bob Hazlett said a recent study of the right-of-way needs - if the freeway is built at a narrower cross-section than the wide but attractive widths seen on other parts of the 202 - shows private ownership of only 5 percent of the land necessary. (The property that still needs to be acquired is around Pecos Road and 24th Street.)

As for cost, building the freeway won't be cheap.

Estimates made years ago put the price tag at nearly $1.1 billion, but that had more than doubled to $2.5 billion. However, falling land values, contractors desperate for work and a small realignment on the 202's western side now mean the freeway can be constructed for around $2 billion, Hazlett said.

Not great, but MAG will take the breaks when they can be found.

MAG looked at but rejected some other cost-cutting options, such as constructing the freeway as a limited-access "parkway." This was dismissed because traffic demands will be high right out of the gate. "This freeway wants to be a freeway," Hazlett said.

Environmental studies will determine when the first shovel will be turned for construction, but when that day comes - and I'll now say "when" rather than "if" - I'll be more than willing to say I was wrong.

Of course, I'm still defending the Suns' Marion-for-Shaq trade, so listen to my predictions at your own peril.

does delay benefit e.v.?

You may have heard that Phoenix is delaying construction on the northwest extension of light rail. This was the leg that was supposed to run from the current terminus, at The Mall Formerly Known as Chris-Town, north on 19th Avenue for three miles.

At first, I thought this might be good news for Mesa's planned extension; I'm now investigating. After all, with the Phoenix line derailed, that would seem to move the East Valley to the top of the list.

But officials with Metro and Mesa tell me this changes nothing, in terms of both money and time.

And now you know.

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