The mini-freeways of Phoenix, Arizona
I learned to drive in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which had pretty much completed its freeway system by that time. If you wanted to drive any distance in town, you didn't take the little city streets, you took the freeway. We lived near a freeway called *the crosstown*, by the way.
There are a lot of reasons why Phoenix didn't build a complete freeway system. Everyone has their own theory, all the way from corruption to the desire not to destroy neighborhoods. If you're old enough to remember the plans for the *Camelback Corridor*, you may have known people who were forced out of their homes for a freeway that was planned to connect Phoenix with Scottsdale along Camelback Road. The freeway was never built.
But, whether people want freeways or not, they need to get around, to get to their jobs, and to move around the city without having to crawl along slowly, stopping at every street light. The compromise that Phoenix came up with was to widen the major streets, and increase the speed limit on them to 40.
The advantage of a real freeway is limited access, no cross-traffic, no traffic lights, and no pedestrian traffic. The disadvantage of the mini-freeways of Phoenix is that they really are surface streets. So, at freeway speeds, it can be difficult for cars to stop for red lights (which is part of the reason that Phoenix leads the country in red-light running), avoid running into each other, hitting pedestrians, etc.
For the most part, the *mini-freeways* work well. The middle lane, by the way, is called the *suicide lane* by people like me who have lived here for a while. And the longer you live in Phoenix, the more you'll understand why it has that name. It's as if a lane were in the middle of the freeway, that allowed traffic to go in either direction, towards each other. They were designed as turn lanes, but many people have different ideas of how they should be used, often with disastrous results. Even if you do know how to use them correctly, you have no control over people who don't.
I've been watching the *mini-freeways* widen for as long as I've lived in the Phoenix area. Right now I'm fascinated by the intersection of Thunderbird Road and 75th Avenue, which is as wide as I've seen in the Phoenix area. And they have left room to widen it again, as needed, which they will probably do in a few years.
Posted by Brad Hall