Look no further than these photos for evidence of why the next city council should apply thumbscrews to anybody who opposes more protection for neighborhoods in the path of street-widening projects. Hardest hit are the central Phoenix neighborhoods, where city street engineers are cutting ever-wider swaths to accommodate people commuting to downtown jobs from the 'burbs. But with nearly 150 miles of city streets slated for widening over the next five years, and plans subject to revision each year, this is everybody's problem.
Up to now, the only difference between the photo on the top and the one on the bottom has been the political influence of the local neighborhood association. Earlier this year, however, neighborhood activist Susan Bliss came up with a way to make sure the streets department never trashes another neighborhood. The idea is to require that any street-widening project include comprehensive plans for sound walls, landscaping buffers--whatever is necessary to protect the surrounding neighborhood from the degrading effects of living next to six lanes of traffic.
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The proposal has won backing from some councilmembers, notably Mary Rose Wilcox, but faces steady static from the traffic bureaucrats who grouse it'll clog up their plans to unclog Phoenix streets. A citizen's committee appointed by council is crafting a policy for adoption into the City Code and once ready for a vote, there'll be no better yardstick for measuring the commitment of all the born-again neighborhood advocates on the council.