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The system of canals SRP operates today was developed by the Hohokam Indians, American pioneers, and the federal government. The precise locations of the original Hohokam canals remain a mystery, in part because most of them have been destroyed by land development. Redeveloped over the past 100 years, each canal — with unglamorous names like Arizona, Crosscut, and Consolidated — has a unique history. The Grand Canal, constructed in 1878, is the oldest remaining pioneer canal on the north side of the Salt River, and the site of at least one annual (and quite secret) pioneer re-enactment game, complete with covered wagon. (Shhh!) And while portions of the old crosscut canal have been turned over to the city of Phoenix to carry away messy storm drainage from the northeast side of town, it hasn't discouraged neighborhood teens from making this canal their after-school hangout.
For some desert dwellers, though, the canal system is an open invitation to play. An unofficial society of canal dwellers can be found most weekend mornings, hunkering around the Tempe Canal or the South Canal over by the old Val Vista Water Treatment Plant. Summertime swimmers are forever being fished out of the canals and sent home with citations, since the canals aren't a resort feature, but a functional means of moving agua from here to there — with sometimes dangerously fast currents. And speaking of fish, trolling for trout is a pastime among many canal fans. While the thought of eating anything caught in a canal makes us go "Ack!," we can't really blame people for wanting to throw out a line or jump in and splash around a little — some of the canals are beautifully seated in lovely areas.
The New Crosscut Canal in Papago Park is surrounded by lush plant life and offers a stunning view of the Papago Buttes. And the Arizona Canal, located about a half-mile below Granite Reef Dam, affords visitors a perfect view of the Four Peaks mountain formation and a man-made mini waterfall that's nice to look at.
According to Valley Metro light-rail director Wolfe Grote, who was involved with the planning of the I-10 tunnel back when he worked for the City of Phoenix's public transportation department, the bus station was designed to serve the needs of the then-red-hot midtown Phoenix area. (One developer was even proposing building a 114-story skyscraper in the area, which would have been the tallest in the world at the time.)
"The thought was to include an express bus station into the plans for the new tunnel that would allow passengers to exit underground and then ride a combination of elevators and escalators up to the park level," Grote says.
Unfortunately, despite spending more than $9 million to build the bones of the structure, the city was never able to secure the $20 million-plus in federal funds it would have taken to complete the project.
Meanwhile, the flood of new developments in midtown failed to materialize, and Valley Metro started delivering workers directly into downtown Phoenix via a new system of express buses. And maybe the last best chance to build out the station fizzled in 2008, when the planned light-rail extension to the west was routed through the Arizona State Capitol area a few miles south, rather than running through the I-10 tunnel.
So for now, this monumental concrete cavern remains a road to nowhere.To see a slideshow of the abandoned bus station, visit www.phoenixnewtimes.com/best of2011.
Stepping inside NRG Energy's underground cooling plant in the heart of downtown Phoenix, you feel a little like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. One minute you're standing outside an anonymous metal door next to the Phoenix Convention Center, and the next you're three stories underground, walking across a metal bridge suspended over a massive holding tank filled with bubbling, neon-green ice water. Named the Downtown Cooling System, this plant, along with two others sprinkled throughout the city core, chills and then pumps near-freezing water to more than 35 buildings across downtown via an underground system of pipes.
The water, which is dyed green in case of a leak, is then used to air-condition everything from Chase Field and US Airways Center to Symphony Hall and the Fourth Avenue County Jail.
Even cooler: The system chills CityScape's outdoor ice rink every December, and also powers the Valley's only air-conditioned Valley Metro light-rail station, at the corner of Second Street and Jefferson.