Why there are so few freeways in the Phoenix area
After World War II, cars became available to just about any working person. And as the technology advanced, including air conditioning, there was less incentive to use public transportation, and more emphasis was placed on making Phoenix as car-friendly as possible. Even the name of a major mall built in the 1950s had the word "Park" in its name, Park Central. A subtle reference, but still there.
And as an area that was widely spread out, and mostly empty, the Phoenix area was a natural for the new invention, freeways. It must have seemed like a dream. Get into your air conditioned car, and drive to work or play in minutes in total comfort. So the next logical thing was to design a freeway system.
Unfortunately, the reality is that while everyone wanted to drive on wide, fast-moving freeways, very few people wanted to sacrifice their neighborhoods for it. Nor did they want a beautiful scenic area to be covered with concrete. So the resistance began.
By the 1980s, while plans still included condemning neighborhoods and moving people out, public resistance to "eminent domain" had reached a fever pitch. People had seen the destruction that freeways had done to neighborhoods in other cities, especially Los Angeles. The rallying cry was for Phoenix to not be like Los Angeles, crowded and smoggy, and the culprit was the freeway system.
Still the Phoenix area continued to grow, so some compromises were made, and some of the freeway system was built. But not nearly enough. And if you're sitting in a traffic jam on a freeway right now (and why are you reading this there?), that's why.
Posted by Brad Hall