TUCSON -- Arizona is making some big transportation mistakes, worsening global warming, urban sprawl, and air pollution with massive new road building proposals. As a downtown dwelling dad of a 4 year old, I'm very concerned, and you should be too.
Gov. Napolitano's Transportation Director in Phoenix, Victor Mendez, following the failed SoCal freeway model, is pushing new freeways all over Southern Arizona. So uncreative, and absurdly expensive and disrupting.
Until recently, freeway mania was focused on Maricopa County, and it still is, but now metro Tucson, Yuma, and Pinal County are targeted as well.
Developers, road builders, bureaucrats, and other profiteers gathered Thursday in Tucson at I-10 and 22nd St. to cheer the expansion of I-10 from 6 to 8 lanes. This hugely expensive project won't do much to improve traffic, which really isn't that bad on I-10 in Tucson, but it will further divide downtown and the west side, and force most of the local freeway traffic on to Tucson streets and neighborhoods for at least 3.5 years while the new lanes are built. Then the new lanes will fill up with traffic.
Now, former big development attorney Si Schorr, on behalf of RTA, is pushing a Tucson bypass route, supposedly for trucks. His current proposal would run a new freeway north of Tucson along the San Pedro River in a wild area between the Sky Island Santa Catalina and Galiuro Mountains.
Schorr is no dummy. He knows development follows road projects, and he and his buddies like a lot of development. The Tucson huge loop bypass is at least partly for development, make no mistake about it.
Global warming is upon us like a speeding train. Metro Phoenix has bad air alerts weekly, and Tucson's air quality is declining rapidly. More freeways, pavement, and associated urban sprawl will only make it worse.
The only way to ensure future quality of life in Tucson is creating more options for people to get out of their cars, or at least not drive alone so much. We are smart enough to do this.
We cannot build our way out of congestion, especially when we keep approving more development that adds to it, but we can destroy a lot of desert, foul the air, and wreck neighborhoods by trying.
If these freeways must be built, and I say they must not, shouldn't developers be paying for these roads which open huge new areas to their crappy subdivisions and strip malls? Yes, they should. But instead we all pay so millions more can come to Arizona to drain our water supply, pollute the air, pave our deserts, and wreck our quality of life.
LA-style freeways don't work, just try to drive in LA, but that isn't stopping the greedheads in government or industry from building these colossal boondoggles.
Growth for the sake of growth is what cancer cells do. The out-of-control freeway plans for Arizona are a cancer that will doom southern Arizona to eventual SoCal style gridlock, thick smog, and low quality of life. One distant slight positive is oversized roads will make great bikeways when all the oil is gone, if we survive.
Gov. Napolitano has so far has done little to really challenge Arizona's unsustainable growth, allowing Mendez, and State Lands Commissioner Mark Winkelman to run wild serving big money sprawl development interests.
Will the popular Gov. Janet really take on the deadly, unsustainable sprawl machine? It is no small task or political risk. But if not now, when? We need big land, water, energy and transportation reform soon.
When all the water is gone, the deserts are paved, the temps are even more scorching, and the air is sickening, then we will all learn that we cannot drink, eat, or breathe cars, super freeways, or money.
But by then it may be too late to save us. For the sake of all of us and all that is good in the world, I hope it doesn't come to that. We are smart people and we can live cleaner.