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

ADOT decided to detour 101 around Long's home in 1988. From just south of Camelback Road, the freeway will veer two streets to the east, to 95th Avenue. Once safely past the Long homestead, the freeway will move back to 97th Avenue before joining up with Interstate 10. The road will still cut through other Long acreage, property that he has other plans for.

Still, the decision to jog around his house has provoked wry observations among those familiar with the alignment, including the Ginggs.

"If that was your house or my house, they'd blow it up in a second," Ben Gingg says.

Not so, according to ADOT spokesman William Rawson.
"If, indeed, the only reason for that jog is to miss his home," Rawson says, "I wouldn't feel bad about it, because if it were your home, we would do the same thing."

Rawson says a number of factors convinced ADOT to take the road around Long's house, including drainage issues and other "environmental" factors. Rawson did not know what those other factors were.

Rawson also says the cost of buying Long's house was too high, although he didn't know what the purchase price would have been or how that compared to the cost of adding more length to the freeway to go around the house.

He did not know why the state decided to take out the Gingg dairy instead of going through empty land nearby.

A public-records request for any documents showing savings associated with sparing Long's home turned up only a single consultant's study commissioned by ADOT in 1988.

The study looked at three separate alternatives for going around Long's home. The consultants never compared the cost of buying the home to going around it, according to the study.

In the end, the consultants recommended the alignment ADOT now shows on its maps.

For his part, Long seems to be ignoring any road-building plans that ADOT has. Instead, Long has his own vision for the farmland surrounding his house. And it doesn't include a freeway.

In August, the homebuilder filed an application with both the City of Phoenix and Maricopa County to have 950 acres of farmland bordered by Thomas Road, Campbell Avenue, 91st Avenue and 99th Avenue rezoned for a golf-course community.

Long's home, with its adjoining stables and pasture land, would lie at the center of the oasis. And where ADOT's plans now have Loop 101 skirting Long's home, his drawings show only acres of rolling fairways with nothing so much as a golf-cart path impinging on the greenery.

Long wants Loop 101 moved to run along 99th Avenue where it bypasses his property--something he lobbied unsuccessfully for during the late 1980s, when ADOT commissioned its study of the proposed routes.

"If you look at the whole alignment, from the north all the way down to the interstate, it takes a bunch of somewhat peculiar jogs, and ADOT will tell you, 'Gee, we thought this was the freeway John F. Long liked," says Grady Gammage Jr., Long's zoning attorney.

ADOT's Rawson says his department never seriously considered running Loop 101 onto 99th Avenue at Indian School Road because doing so would have meant paying to reroute an arterial roadway--something it had considered doing at Glendale Avenue until earlier this year.

In 1988, the consultants recommended against a 99th Avenue alignment, in part, because of "the property owner's [Long's] insistence that ADOT pay for the 99th Avenue relocation."

Long could not be reached for comment. Jim Miller, who heads Long's commercial real-estate division, says ADOT "may be crying wolf" about the cost of shifting 101 over to 99th Avenue.

"They've always said that was the case, but we've never really been convinced," Miller says.

Gammage points out that Long owns the land on either side of 99th Avenue and that he may be willing to bargain with ADOT.

"I think if it came down 99th Avenue, I think John would be willing to help ADOT with the right of way," Gammage says. "Of course, I don't mean that to imply he would give it to them for free."

Long's chances of winning city and county approval for the rezoning are anyone's guess at this point. Likewise, it remains to be seen whether he will get what he wants from ADOT.

However, Long has many friends all over the Valley, and he's done more than a few favors during the years. Earlier this year, Long donated 80 acres valued at $4 million to the City of Glendale for a wastewater-treatment plant. In 1995, Long donated 56 acres at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road for the construction of a spring-training complex for the Milwaukee Brewers.

About a third of Long's land--the portion from Osborn Road to Thomas Road--lies within the city of Phoenix. The rest is unannexed county land that the city has long been eyeing.

Long's land, along with many a Long-built subdivision, lies inside Phoenix's Fifth Council District. District 5 councilman John Nelson is president of Coe and Vanloo, an engineering firm which is involved in Long's master plan.

Nelson would not comment on the pending zoning case or on the master plan, except to relay through his secretary that he is not personally involved with the project. Nelson would not be in a position to vote on project approval until it was passed from the zoning commission to the council.

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