CANAMEX Truck By-Pass/ Pollution

CANAMEX is the NAFTA highway that is planned to run from Canada all the way to Mexico through the Western U.S. It will go through Arizona and come close to Phoenix. While ADOT’s official plans are to build the area portion of the CANAMEX highway to run from Wickenburg to the State Route 85 “truck by-pass” between the I-10 at Buckeye and the I-8 at Gila Bend, this plan is unfunded. It will not be built anytime soon. Meanwhile, traffic from Wickenburg comes through the Valley of the Sun, and the CANAMEX highway is already starting to happen. Mexican trucks, belching untold amounts of pollutants into the air, are already freely roaming the freeways of the Valley of the Sun. So are numerous other trucks, with their significant diesel pollutants, that choose not to follow the so-called “truck by-pass” on highway 85 because it is a slow and crowded 2-lane road.

If a South Mountain Freeway (SMF) is built as proposed, allowing unlimited trucks, including those carrying hazardous materials (HazMats), it would provide a delightful new all-freeway route for the trucks to follow, while still avoiding downtown. Truck drivers don’t need to be rocket scientists to see the benefits of this bypass! They would avoid the official “truck bypass” in much larger numbers than today, and the SMF would become the CANAMEX truck bypass by default. Even some residents are now seeing the SMF as a way to get rid of some of the trucks on the I-10.

Do ADOT and MAG realize this? Why else would they insist that the SMF needs to be 8-10 lanes?! But they will continue to deny it. They do not seem to have the ability to analyze the realities of the situation. Or else they are unconcerned about the ramifications of all that truck traffic coming through the Valley of the Sun.

The air pollution from the SMF would seriously affect over 7000 students in 6 schools near the proposed freeway path in Ahwatukee. However, a truck bypass going past South Mountain will not only be a problem for those who live close to South Mountain. Everyone from Buckeye, through the West Valley, past Ahwatukee and Sun Lakes to Casa Grande will feel the effects of increased truck traffic and significant additional air pollution. The West Valley already has the worst air quality in the valley, and this new truck by-pass would only make it significantly worse!

Add to that the fact that the SMF would cost significantly more than ADOT currently projects. ADOT is using figures that are considerably out of date, and they are not taking into consideration the extra funding required for all the special work that would be necessary to blast through a mountain and then to attempt to salvage the ecosystem that would be destroyed in the process. They are also not considering the Federal highway funding that would be lost because the air pollution would become significantly worse instead of being cleaned up, as the Federal government is requiring.

The money set aside for the SMF could be put to much better use for the benefit of this valley if it were used to make a freeway somewhere in the vicinity of State Route 85. Such a route could become a real truck by-pass that could and would be used by all the truck traffic that is just passing through the area. In fact, it would probably be used by all the traffic that is just passing through the area. It would especially be used by all the Valley of the Sun through traffic if the new freeway were to become the new route for I-10 – around the Valley of the Sun instead of through it!

Unfortunately, such ideas have never been considered by ADOT and MAG. They continue on their merry beaurocratic ways with blinders on, in “same-ole, same-ole” mode until the public makes them stop and reconsider. PARC is in a position to focus public efforts to make them do just that! ADOT and MAG must be forced to stop and reconsider their entire Regional Transportation Plan, and to make responsible changes that will be beneficial to the citizens of the Valley of the Sun.