Routes include Indian parcels
Nearly 20 years after voters gave the go-ahead to raise funds for a regional highway system, a map that reveals a general location for the belated South Mountain Freeway has been released.
This map depicts a broad swath of land beginning along Pecos Road in the southernmost portion of the Ahwatukee Foothills and extending nearly a mile into the Gila River Indian Community.
"The environmental impact study is looking at a route below Pecos Road in cooperation with the Gila for the first time," said Dennis Smith, executive director of the Maricopa Association of Governments, which prepared the map.
"In 1985, when we first had the regional transportation plan, that's not where the first alignment (proposed route) was so the study is looking at other options."
An environmental impact study has identified up to seven possible routes, connecting the freeway with Loop 101 via Tolleson and other paths through west Phoenix to Interstate 10.
An illustration outlining these routes will be featured in the Nov. 2 election voter guide for Proposition 400 for the regional transportation plan, Smith said.
Maricopa County voters will be asked to extend the original half-cent sales tax approved in 1985 for another 20 years, through January 2025. The current tax is scheduled to end December 2005.
An extended tax is expected to generate $9 billion for the regional transportation plan that covers part of the cost of constructing the South Mountain Freeway, Smith said.
The remaining portion would come from federal and state funds.
When the current sales tax was enacted about 20 years ago, Ahwatukee Foothills was a burgeoning Phoenix community hidden behind the South Mountain. There were 4,600 residents in 1980. The population nearly quadrupled in the next 10 years, and about 80,000 live in Ahwatukee Foothills today.
Ahwatukee Foothills is near build-out, and some residents think the freeway belongs outside the area with the land south of Pecos Road being a popular alternative for residents north of Pecos Road.
The construction of a freeway on the Gila River Indian Community may hinge on the approval of several disparate landowners called allottees.
Much of the area under study is divided into 10-acre parcels owned by individuals or groups of people whose land was given to them by the United States government.
In some cases, as many as 60 people, usually family members, may own a single allotment.
The Gila River Indian Community government has jurisdiction over land not held by allottees. Several calls to representatives of the Gila River Indian Community were not returned.
"Many want to develop the land and would not object to it because it's something everybody needs," said Nathaniel Percharo, an allottee and chairman of the I-10 Pecos Landowners Association, a group that represents about 600 Gila River Indian Community members who are allotees.
Percharo stopped short of wholly embracing the freeway.
"Why not put something there that has an income all the time?" he said. "They (allottees) have to look out for their grandchildren and families and their future. They don't oppose it if it's given to them in the proper way."