Opinion: Multi-use trail no replacement for Pecos cycling

The Arizona Department of Transportation’s solution to providing recreation along the proposed Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway after eliminating Pecos Road is a 15-foot-wide, multi-use trail along the south side of the existing Pecos Road alignment from 40th Street to 17th Avenue.

Robin Salthouse

Robin Salthouse

The trail is a new project development that has never been mentioned or shown in any previous design renderings of the South Mountain Freeway.

Desirable solution?

If this trail does make it through to the final construction, will a trail meant for cycling, running, hiking or walking along a busy truck bypass be a desirable and practical solution to the destruction of current recreational opportunities in and around South Mountain?

The proposed Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway will certainly change cycling and other forms of recreation in the area not only with the elimination of Pecos Road in Ahwatukee, but also with the transfer of local traffic to fewer surface streets.

Access to this trail will require users to cross bridges over or under the freeway to the south side of the it. No mention as to how many and what kind of access points will be provided.

Lack of detail

One of the major concerns voiced during the different phases of the environmental impact study was the lack of information on the freeways’ design including, for this trail, the type of barrier to safely separate trail users from the freeway.

In addition, throwing multi-users onto one trail should not be done without consideration as outlined in the Federal Highway Administration’s own guidelines – Conflicts on Multiple-Use Trails.

south-mountain-selected-alternatives-map2It’s this lack of oversight and planning that moved several organizations to join Protecting Arizona Resources and Children’s lawsuit against the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and ADOT. See list at protectazchildren.org

It’s hard to imagine the desirability of a recreation area that is bordered by an eight-lane freeway, with deafening noise and high levels of exhaust. You can read more on the concerns about ADOT’s flawed air quality models in this environmental impact statement on page B6.

Oral arguments set to begin

Construction for the freeway cannot begin until oral arguments for the lawsuit PARC et al v. FHWA et al (ADOT) are heard on May 11 at 10 a.m. in the Sandra Day O’Connor United States Courthouse.

PARC invites anyone who wants to stop this expensive and destructive project by donating to support legal costs or by attending the court hearing.

ADOT’s pre-decisional actions for the current freeway alignment before following required processes to determine the project’s need, design, impact and required mitigations has provided Arizona taxpayers with a flawed and expensive transportation solution.

For more information, visit the PARC website or Facebook page.

South Mountain Freeway

Robin Salthouse is a concerned cyclist in Ahwatukee and the former president of the Phoenix Mountains Preservation Council. 

Main photo: PARC

The soon-to-be built South Mountain Freeway will complete the Valley’s Loop 202 network by extending 22 miles from Interstate 10 near Ahwatukee and Chandler then through South Mountain Park. It will rejoin I-10 near 59th Avenue in the West Valley and will have four lanes in each direction, including carpool lanes. Both state and federal transportation agencies say the new freeway is crucial to preventing gridlock.

A grassroots organization fighting ADOT in court is reminding its supporters the fight is far from over, despite a U.S. District Court decision last year not to grant a request to halt progress on the freeway. According to the group’s legal complaint, the freeway could bring a 460-percent increase in traffic and reduce the quality of life for residents in the area.

Opponents are also worried about the environmental impact that bringing thousands of vehicles and trucks through their neighborhoods could have on South Mountain Park. They are worried construction will disturb South Mountain Park as parts of the mountains are leveled.