In 1983, Phoenix conducted its own design for the Squaw Peak Parkway. The initial design was from McDowell Rd. to Northern Ave., and would have used the route signs shown above. The city did end up building the stretch from McDowell to Glendale Ave. North of that, it was built by ADOT, as was the interchange with I-10 and AZ 202.
In 1985, a plan was finally adopted to build the Phoenix urban system, and the Squaw Peak was incorporated into it as AZ 51.
The finished product certainly had its critics. After ADOT took it over, they removed much of the landscaping and installed a cable fence down the median. They also installed safety railings along the edges of planters on the sides of the highway. They also didn't like the "parkway" term, and have taken to calling it "Squaw Peak Highway" when they use the name at all. Their website only calls it "SR 51".
The other part of the name has been controversial as well. The name was taken from Squaw Peak, but a rumor has been going around that "squaw" is actually a dirty word for a woman in a Native American language. Efforts to rename it after Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater have so far failed. I'm not convinced about the "squaw" origins (my sources say it simply means "woman" in Aloquinian), but if it has to be renamed I'd rather rename it after an Indian tribe or a landmark, like the other freeways are named.
The name is actually posted at the I-10/AZ 202 interchange, but it will be removed (along with the Central Phoenix designation for I-10) the next time the signs are worked on. ADOT's policy is to not use freeway names other than as auxiliary plates below standalone route markers. This interchange also had signs referring to the East Papago freeway (now the Red Mountain, AZ 202) but those are already gone.
Don't have a parkway, man. Another controversy was over the art projects used as beautification. Bart is part of a large collection of frescoes under the Thomas Rd. overpass.
The overpass is held up by pillars styled after an Anasazi frog design.
Another fresco depicts the highway crushing a neighborhood along with this epitaph.
People were mostly bemused by the Thomas project, and the wackier details aren't apparent while driving by. What really got people riled was the pots.
The Octopot is outside the freeway wall at Maryland Ave. There are several other giant vases like this, plus cereal bowls, coffee pots, and dishes on top of the wall, some appearing to be broken. A lot of people didn't like it, but I do. I like something a little unusual.
This pedestrian bridge near Thunderbird Rd. is meant to evoke a range of mountain peaks. Unfortunately, I don't think it works well with chain link fence.
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Last updated 04/16/2000