|Ahwatukee Foothills News, 5/9/2002|
Future Loop 202 route hinges greatly on tribe's decision map
|By Doug Murphy Staff Writer
Unless the Gila River Indian Community wants the South Mountain Loop 202 freeway on its land, the highway could end up along the original route -- Pecos Road. That's because there's no other place to build it.
More than 100 residents told Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) representatives Tuesday night that they didn't want the freeway built on Pecos Road, fearing it will become a truck bypass around downtown Phoenix, but those concerns may not matter.
Preliminary results from one of the first parts of a three-year environmental impact study show there is a need for some type of a road around South Mountain. The question is, where will it be built? Will it be along Pecos Road or farther south on Gila River Indian Community land?
Resident Dom Barrios acknowledged the need for the route, but opposes it on Pecos Road. "The freeway needs to be built, but can it be taken as far south as possible?" he asked.
The day after the meeting, Gila River Indian Community spokesman Gary Bohnee said he would not speculate if the community would welcome a freeway but the possibility is being discussed. "At this point in time, the community is still gathering information," he said. However, Gov. Donald Antone's Borderland Task Force may make a recommendation on the South Mountain Loop 202 route in the next few months, Bohnee said. Any recommendation would then go to the full council for final authorization.
ADOT spokesman Matt Burdick said the department hopes to have a handful of alternative routes selected by the end of summer so that detailed analysis of each route could begin. If the Gila River Indian Community opposes a freeway on their land, ADOT's options will be limited to the Pecos Road alignment. If the freeway is built along Pecos Road, residents have expressed great concern about heavy truck traffic.
Resident Susan Rossi ridiculed the project as squandering taxpayers' money for a privileged few. "It all boils down to this being a truck bypass," she said.
John Godec, who was hired by ADOT to help conduct public outreach for the study, said the concern is being considered. "That's not our intention, but it is something we have to look at," he said. He is a principal with the Phoenix-based Godec, Randall and Associates, a communication strategy and issues management firm.
The freeway was originally put on ADOT maps in 1988 where Pecos Road now is, west from Interstate 10 around South Mountain Park and north to the interstate between 51st and 59th avenues. Since then, homes have been built in the freeway's right-of-way and churches and schools have been built next to where the freeway could go.
The Federal Highway Administration told ADOT that because the plan is so old a new study needed to be conducted to determine if the freeway was still needed and what the best route would be. A three-year, $6 million, Environmental Impact Statement began last year to answer those questions.
Where the route will go is still very much up in the air, but according to Godec the study has shown that there is a need to move forward. "We believe there is a traffic problem big enough to warrant a solution," he said. Godec used estimates that the population of Maricopa County will double to 6.5 million people by 2025 to help justify the freeway.
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