The Road Not Taken

A long-planned freeway for the fast-growing west Valley is ambling along in the slow lane as state officials, local communities and an influential developer try to figure out just where the road should run

The letter noted that ADOT would save $3 million with the realignment, largely because it wouldn't have to reroute 99th Avenue at Glendale. What it did not mention, however, was that the state was left holding a $1.5 million strip of land it had already purchased from Johnson--land which Johnson is under no obligation to buy back from the state. Yet the state will have to pay Johnson even more money for the new right of way.

Though not an engineer or a high-priced attorney, Rudy Johnson senses why 101 is taking such a circuitous route to Interstate 10.

"It's all politics," he says. "They talk about savings, but when you look at what they'll have to do to go through that dairy, it's hard for me to believe they're serious about saving money."

Johnson says he can't imagine life that close to a freeway, especially once cars start lining up in front of his house on Glendale Avenue to make their way onto 101 or to pass beneath the interchange.

Now, Johnson is mulling over his options, which appear to be slim. ADOT is not obligated to spare his house; it can put the road wherever it pleases, as long as it's willing to pay.

The next time you're thinking about pouring a tall, cold glass of milk, take a drive out to 99th Avenue to see where it came from.

In commercials sponsored by the American Dairy Association, milk looks as refreshingly clean and pure as Perrier. The place where it comes from is another story.

Sometimes, you can smell the Triple G Dairy almost as soon as you see it. When you do see it, the first thing you notice is the cows. All 3,000 of them.

There are cows lolling in the shade on the manure-covered ground. Other cows stand, inexplicably, atop massive pyramid-shaped mounds of cowshit.

The Triple G has stood on 99th Avenue, near Bethany Home Road, for almost 40 years. Once, the Glendale area was home to several such dairies. Today, the Triple G is the last one in that part of the Valley.

Most of the land around the Triple G is unannexed, vacant county land--no coincidence, since the odor thrown off by all those lactating bovines would test even the hardiest suburbanite.

The City of Glendale is not overly mad about those cows. On its master plan, in fact, the city shows the area as the site of future subdivisions--a vision that will be realized once 101 scythes its way through the dairy.

Leaders throughout the west Valley have long been looking forward to the day 101 links up with Interstate 10. Several years ago, they banded together to lobby the Governor's Office to bump the completion date for the freeway up by several years.

They had good reason. Once plugged into the Valley's ever-expanding freeway grid, land values in the west Valley will soar. Strip malls and Circle Ks will sprout up on every corner.

On August 27, 1996, representatives from ADOT met with Glendale officials and engineers from Daniel, Mann, Johnson and Menderhall, an engineering consulting firm.

Minutes from that meeting suggest that ADOT had hoped to bypass the dairy but changed its mind. At that meeting, ADOT assistant engineer Larry Langer "noted that ADOT is no longer requesting that the alignment be shifted to avoid the dairy farm."

ADOT spokesman William Rawson had no explanation for the change in plans. But it makes sense that state officials might have wanted to avoid buying out the dairy.

Now, not only will ADOT have to give the dairy's operators fair market value for their land and equipment, the state also will have to pay the costs of relocating it, under the state's condemnation law.

That could run as high as $10 million, according to dairymen and others familiar with the Gingg family's situation. ADOT has already made its offer to the Ginggs, and the deal is now in escrow. The Ginggs would not comment on the specifics of their buyout agreement. Neither would ADOT.

The Gingg family, which has run the Triple G for about 40 years, is not pleased with the relocation.

"It seemed like ADOT thought it would be a terrible injustice if that freeway missed this dairy," says Ben Gingg, the son of the dairy's founder.

Gingg adds that ADOT representatives repeatedly told them that Glendale officials were pressuring them to steer the road through their operation. Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs denies that city officials leaned on ADOT. And ADOT spokesman Rawson also had no comment on Glendale's involvement.

"We have not interfered, we have not registered any opinions," Scruggs says. "It's always been my understanding that there was no way that dairy could have been missed."

Near 97th Avenue and Indian School Road, John F. Long's home stands in isolated splendor behind a tall, wrought-iron security gate.

In front, acres of lawn have been sculpted into an undulating mass of greenery. There are stables out back and adjoining pasture land on which to run horses. The entire complex sits in the middle of more than 1,000 acres of empty farmland, all of which Long owns.

The house also lies dead in the center of the 97th Avenue freeway alignment--the same alignment that will flatten the Triple G.

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