Focus on freeways may hurt economy

With options like the light rail, more Arizona residents have recently turned to public transportation — but that could soon change.

Cities like Tempe are beginning to face greater cuts to the already dwindling transportation routes.

Nearly 15 years ago, voters approved a tax measure dedicated to funding public transportation — now, locally and statewide, the system could take a step backwards.

Tempe is leading the state in cuts, chopping $14 million out of its transportation budget within the next three years, according to The Arizona Republic. Though the decided cuts will not be made until May, it is likely early morning or Sunday bus routes could be terminated.

Arizona is following the trend in Tempe, most cities are now forced to cut somewhere in their transportation budget. Despite this, the state is making new plans for freeway expansion.

Originally, advocates of a South Mountain Freeway project wanted to cover three mountain ridges and hundreds of homes with a freeway that would connect Chandler and Laveen. Though this measure did not pass, Congress is still pushing for an alternate Loop 202 that would be less invasive, but serve a similar purpose.

Arizona is hitting the rewind button to the early ’90s before they realized voters wanted more public transportation. The revitalization of downtown Phoenix and local businesses in this time of recession should be proof that the light rail project is working.

Instead of pumping money into a brand new freeway, something Arizona has way too many of in the first place, Congress should be more concerned with thinking about local impacts by encouraging local businesses to sprout up in Chandler or Laveen and revitalizing local transportation in those areas.

An expansion of the light rail would also benefit the state at this time. It would create jobs, add to existing property values and connect the various cities in the Phoenix metropolitan area, not to mention the national recognition Arizona would receive for being greener and taking more cars off the road.

By connecting other cities around Tempe and Phoenix to the existing light rail line, it would help engage commerce and business in the downtown areas.

The continued cuts made to the transportation budget are unacceptable. It is already difficult to get around via busses because of the lack of density in Tempe and the surrounding cities. The expansion of Valley freeways will only add to the urban sprawl that exists and make it even more difficult for those who rely on public transportation.

Nicole wonders if light rail passes will be cheaper if shorter hours are enforced. Let her know what you think at ndgilber@asu.edu