Last chance for public to review proposed Loop 202 extension

Posted: Updated:
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the long-proposed, 22-mile South Mountain Freeway was released for public review Friday.

Published by the Arizona Department of Transportation in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration, the document is part of a review process required by the federal government. It provides the public with a final opportunity to review the preferred freeway route, which was identified through the South Mountain Transportation Corridor Study.

ADOT said the freeway is the final link in the voter-approved loop system of freeways serving the Phoenix area. The preferred route runs east and west along Pecos Road and north between 55th and 63rd avenues, connecting with Interstate 10 on each end.

The document also shows potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed freeway and addresses comments made by citizens who reviewed the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The draft was published in April 2013 and followed by a public hearing in May 2013.

Concerns raised by citizens include the impact on South Mountain Park, the loss of homes, noisy traffic near neighborhoods and pollution.

"There are lots of ways that people can get around the Valley; going through South Mountain is not one of them," said Ahwatukee resident Pat Lawlis.

The freeway would cut about 31 acres off the west side of South Mountain Park. ADOT would also have to purchase a church, several businesses and more than 100 homes along the proposed route, according to spokesman Tim Tait.

Lawlis is also concerned about air quality at the schools near the route.

"Within one-half mile of the proposed freeway area, we have 15 schools," she said. "We have had experts look at all these things, and the air quality in all 15 of those schools would be, well, what we call toxic."

Tait said the Final Environmental Impact Statement takes all things, good and bad, into account. He recommends building the freeway for future growth, and some residents hope it would relieve the daily congestion on Interstate 10, particularly at the "Broadway curve."

Lawlis said her group, Protecting Arizona's Resources and Children, plans to sue if the proposed route is approved by the federal government.

"It is a truck bypass," she said. "They've been lying about it all along. I can't say it any other way. They're lying."

The public can review the final report online or for 60 days at several Valley locations.

Public comments must be submitted by Nov. 25 to be considered in the decision-making document prepared by the Federal Highway Administration. The Record of Decision is expected to be finalized in late 2014 and released to the public in early 2015.

If the preferred route is selected, funding to begin construction will be available as soon as 2015, according to the state's Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program.

ADOT said a private group will be involved in the decision, construction and maintenance of the freeway to help expedite construction and reduce the overall cost of the project.

Maricopa County voters approved funding for the South Mountain Freeway through Proposition 300. The proposed freeway was also part of the Regional Transportation Plan funding passed by voters in 2004 through Proposition 400.