The passage of Proposition 400 is the latest event in a 20-year history of the often-planned, much debated, but as-yet-unbuilt South Mountain leg of Loop 202.
In 1985, when the original half-cent transportation tax was approved by
voters, the South Mountain Freeway was included. Then, as now, the idea was
to provide a freeway bypass from Interstate 10 near Pecos Road west beyond
Ahwatukee Foothills and then north to rejoin I-10 in the West Valley. The
freeway would keep truckers and through travelers out of the quagmire of
downtown Phoenix traffic and give Ahwatukee Foothills residents a second way
out of the cul-de-sac.
But funding created by the 1985 tax went elsewhere and the road, though
still shown on planning maps, went nowhere.
Two attempts to revive the freeway segment by building a toll road failed in
1998 when investors determined they couldn't make money on the project.
Meanwhile, homes were built in Ahwatukee Foothills close to the Pecos Road
easement owned by the Arizona Department of Transportation. Opposition to
the Pecos Road alignment grew right along with the neighborhoods and
Now Ahwatukee Foothills voters have helped pass the 20-year extension of the
half-cent tax, and the South Mountain Freeway, at a price tag of more than
$1 billion, is a go again.
But exactly where it will go remains unknown.
ADOT is conducting an environmental impact study on various routes for the
freeway. The South Mountain Citizens Advisory Team meets monthly to discuss
the freeway with officials from ADOT, the Federal Highway Administration and
Maricopa Association of Governments. A decision is likely a couple of years
Although Ahwatukee Foothills residents have representatives on the Citizen
Advisory Team, the strongest voice for their cause is Phoenix Councilman
"In 1985, I was a sophomore in high school, so a lot of this is lore
for me," Stanton said. "But a lot of people have talked to me
It's on his desk now, and he has made his stance clear on many occasions to
any who will listen: He believes the best alignment for the freeway, for all
concerned, is south of Ahwatukee.
He's well aware that land is on the Gila River Indian Community.
"This decision cannot be made without their consent and approval,
without Gila River making a decision that's in their best interests,"
Stanton said. "I respect that and embrace that."
As for his constituents, Stanton says the vote shows that they generally
favor the freeway.
"They just don't want it in a way that would do harm to their quality
He points to the Pima leg of Loop 101 on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian
Community east of Scottsdale as an example of the economic opportunities the
Gila Community could expect from freeway frontage. He believes the
commercial growth at Scottsdale Pavilions represents only a fraction of what
the Salt River Community will have.
He's optimistic that all parties involved in determining the alignment of
the South Mountain Freeway will be able to reach an agreement.
"We have to think of ourselves as partners for the future. That
relationship is incredibly important for both of our futures," he said.
With the passage of Proposition 400, the future is being funded. Now all we
need to do is figure out where to put the road that will take us there.