Entries categorized "Downtown & central Phoenix" Feed

Phoenix in the seventies

Central_1972Central Avenue and Van Buren in 1972. Note the full block of businesses heading north to the Westward Ho. Central was still a two-way street.

No series of events better epitomized the 1970s and the turning point they marked in Phoenix than the fight over freeways, specifically the "inner loop" of the Papago Freeway.

Most Phoenicians had a vague idea that freeways were a possibility since the Wilber Smith & Associates plan was adopted in 1960. Interstate 10 had been completed to Tucson and was abuilding from the west. By mid-decade it had reached Tonopah, requiring a long drive over largely country roads to reach. Real-estate values plummeted along the path of the inner loop. But by 1970, Phoenix's freeway "system" consisted of only the Black Canyon (Interstate 17) which curved at Durango to become the Maricopa (I-10).

HelicoilsAll this changed as the new decade opened and the plan's stark reality became clear. Specifically, the Papago would vault into the air, reaching 100 feet as it crossed Central Avenue. Traffic would enter and exit via massive "helicoils" at Third Avenue and Third Street. The freeway was promoted as being Phoenix's defining piece of architecture.

It didn't take Eugene Pulliam and the anti-freeway advocacy of the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette to make most Phoenicians horrified. In 1973, voters vehemently rejected the inner loop. They only had to look 372 miles west to see the destruction wrought by freeways. They didn't want Phoenix to "become another Los Angeles."

 

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