possibility that the desert bordering Ahwatukee Foothills could one day become
a freeway has existed almost as long as the community itself.
This week, for the first time in the project's nearly two-decade history,
Ahwatukee residents will be able to compare rumor to the reality of what the
proposed Loop 202 could look like if or when it is built. They will be able to
ask questions and register their opinions on the public record.
The meeting is expected to be emotional for the hundreds of homeowners and
families who could see their community radically changed by the long-planned
and much-debated freeway.
a process folks work through, from shock, to surprise, to anger," ADOT
spokesman Matt Burdick said.
More than 1,000 people are expected at the Grace Inn on Thursday for an
eight-hour open house hosted by the Arizona Department of Transportation. The
main attraction will be a series of enlarged aerial photographs showing the
routes that the proposed South Mountain Freeway could take in Ahwatukee
Foothills and the West Valley.
They are detailed enough that residents will be able to tell whether
individual homes and buildings fall within the boundary of properties that
ADOT believes it will need to acquire if the freeway is built. As currently
designed, it could claim up to 250 to 300 houses and condominiums in
Neighborhoods and communities are rallying their members in anticipation of
the open house.
"I'm telling people not only to attend that meeting but to speak with a
loud voice and be vocal," Councilman Greg Stanton said.
In the Foothills Reserve, a new community of semicustom homes that could be
partially bulldozed to make room for the highway, the freeway is the topic of
choice among neighbors, one resident said.
"Every time we run into someone, the conversation always points that
way," Ty RamotarSingh said.
At Mountain Park Community Church off 24th Street and Pecos Road, a notice
encouraging worshipers to attend Thursday's meeting ran in the church bulletin
at Sunday services. The church sits squarely in the freeway's footprint.
Though church officials knew when they built their house of worship in the
early 1990s that the freeway was planned nearby, they are hoping to save their
church, facilities manager Dave Swisher said.
"Because of the views and the situation we have, we would like to stay
here," he said.
San Riva at the Foothills, a former apartment complex recently converted to
condominiums, opened to potential buyers at 10 a.m. Friday. At 10:20 a.m.,
management learned that the freeway could raze as many as 100 units in the
Managers said they planned to attend Thursday's meeting to voice opposition to
"We're trying to sell a lifestyle here, and it's tough to sell a
lifestyle in the middle of a freeway," project director Ben Henrich said.
For many residents, the freeway appears to threaten the very lifestyle that
drew them to Ahwatukee in the first place - quiet, cozy neighborhoods ringed
by beautiful desert views and a sense of isolation from the rest of the
ADOT officials said that many Ahwatukee residents whose commute could be
improved by a direct route from Ahwatukee to the West Valley have still
expressed opposition to the freeway, saying that they prefer a longer drive to
a loss of quality of life.
Michael Argeline is one such resident. His work in security video surveillance
takes him frequently to the West Valley. Standing in the back yard of his home
off 32nd Street and Pecos, he said he would rather keep a long commute than
disrupt his neighborhood.
"It would just totally ruin the feel of the community here," he said
of the freeway.
Similar meetings are scheduled in the West Valley. City governments, property
owners and developers there are debating three route alternatives connecting
the proposed freeway to Interstate 10, each affecting scores of businesses and
In Ahwatukee, residents will be able to consider two scenarios Thursday:
building the freeway along what is now Pecos Road or not building the freeway
Despite protests from Ahwatukee residents and representatives urging ADOT to
move the freeway south, the Gila River Indian Community has not consented to
any study of a freeway alignment on their land.
Though engineers have said that the route shown at this week's meetings is
close to the freeway that ADOT would like to build, it is possible that ADOT
could alter the plans based on public input.
Late last week, planners removed an interchange at 32nd Street after
objections from residents and city officials.
Though some in the neighborhood were relieved that their homes were spared,
others said they would rather be bought out than be stuck with a home in the
shadow of a freeway.
Richard Slapke said he will be at Thursday's meeting. He is among those
objecting to the impact the freeway will have on his neighborhood, a
tight-knit community that abuts Pecos Road at 32nd Street. Though the freeway
may bypass his house, he said he can't imagine who but the city would buy from
"Take it, 'cause I can't sell it," he said.