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Tue October 16, 2007 - West Edition
PHOENIX (AP) A $10 million state appropriation intended to help speed widening of Interstate 10 west of Phoenix was sliced to $6 million in a rare procedural move invoked by a Phoenix city councilwoman.
Phoenix Councilwoman Peggy Neely invoked a Maricopa Association of Governments rule at its meeting Aug. 22 that removes the normal one vote per city rule and instead weights the votes based on city population.
The result was a road building block for Goodyear, Avondale and Litchfield Park, cities west of Phoenix that have been pushing for the freeway widening to deal with daily gridlock.
The cities now will need to come up with the extra $4 million to jumpstart the project, and representatives from Avondale and Litchfield Park said they are not sure they can help cover the difference.
“I don’t think it’s fair for the Litchfield Park taxpayers to be paying extra to get a federal highway widened,” said Mayor Tom Schoaf, who governs a city of 5,500 people.
“Litchfield Park has no frontage on I-10. It’s an interstate highway that benefits the entire country more than just the region we’re in,” Schoaf said.
Neely and others said they wanted to make sure that cities that want roads widened faster be billed equally. “Everyone supports the widening of I-10, but the process has been circumvented,” Neely said.
Neely added the move was not a payback for Goodyear negotiating and taking away from Phoenix a major cancer hospital.
The Arizona Department of Transportation has been ready to advertise the widening of Interstate 10 to contractors for a month but has been waiting for the funding issue to be resolved.
Goodyear is committed to paying its part, said Mayor Jim Cavanaugh, but the mayors of Avondale and Litchfield Park have not committed.
“We cannot take on the freeway ourselves,” said Cavanaugh, who also is MAG’s chairman. “If these two cities go south, that is a significant problem.”
The regional council decided to move the remaining $4 million back into a regional pool that kicked in an additional $14 million for the acceleration of I-10 construction.