on-ramp to freeway discourse
Q and A covers debate on S. Mtn. stretch from A to Z
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 5, 2006 12:00 AM
new year begins with a renewed push by Valley cities and the Arizona Department
of Transportation to reach a decision on the proposed South Mountain Freeway's
location. In the next few weeks, the South Mountain Citizens Advisory Team, a
volunteer advisory board, will vote on their preferred location for the western
leg of the freeway. Negotiations with the Gila River Indian Community regarding
the southern alignment are ongoing.
The following questions and answers are intended to bring you up to speed on an
issue that promises to be one of the hottest in Ahwatukee Foothills and the
Valley in 2006 and beyond.
What is the South Mountain Freeway? The
South Mountain Freeway is a 10-lane, 22- to 26-mile proposed limited-access
highway that would link Interstate 10 in the West Valley to I-10 in the south,
bypassing Phoenix. It would complete Loop 202, and is part of the original
Valley freeway system proposed in 1985.
Why has it taken so long to build? Though the freeway was in the Regional Transportation Plan approved by
the Maricopa Association of Governments in 1988, ADOT ran out of money to build
it. The passage of Proposition 400 in 2004 injected new money into the project
and bumped it to the top of the priority list.
When will a decision be made? ADOT
wants to finish a draft report on the freeway by this fall. A final report is
expected by fall 2007 to the Federal Highway Administration, which will then
issue a record of decision.
When will construction begin? If it
stays on that timetable, construction would start in 2009 and finish in 2015.
How much will it cost? Depending on
where the freeway goes, it will cost $1 billion to $1.3 billion to build. That
doesn't include right-of-way or relocation costs.
Where will it go in the West Valley?
As part of a federal study launched in 2001, ADOT has proposed linking the
freeway to I-10 at 55th Avenue, 71st Avenue or Loop 101. A preferred western
alignment would be part of the draft report due this fall.
Why would other routes be considered there, if
the original 55th Avenue alignment was already approved? Because it
is using federal funds for this study, ADOT is required to examine alternatives
to the original alignment.
Will it go along Pecos Road in Ahwatukee? The
Pecos Road alignment was part of the original plan in 1985 and approved by MAG
in 1988. Because ADOT doesn't have permission from the Gila River Indian
Community to look at routes on its land, Pecos is the only location the agency
is now considering in the south.
Why can't it be moved south onto the Gila
River Reservation? The Gila River Indian Community is a sovereign
nation. The state cannot exercise eminent domain on the land, and cannot
encroach on the reservation without tribal consent. Though negotiations with the
community have been ongoing since 2001, the tribe has not given permission for
any study or action on its land.
If the Gila River community declines to take
the freeway, can ADOT not allow on- and off-ramps on the Gila River side? No.
Denying a community access to a freeway is illegal.
Can just part of the freeway be built? No.
Loop 202 must be built entirely, or not at all.
Can there be a decision to build nothing at
all? Yes. No-build is one of the options being considered.
What will happen to South Mountain Park? There
are only two ways to link the western and southern portions of the proposed
freeway - on Gila River Reservation land, or in South Mountain Park. As the
community has not consented to action on its land, plans call for a canyon up to
800 feet wide and 200 feet deep through the western portion of the park.
How many homes and businesses will be taken? The
Loop 101 alignment would take 230 to 530 homes and 10 to 15 businesses. At 71st
Avenue, it would take 780 homes and 15 businesses. The 55th Avenue alignment
would take 120 homes and 70 businesses. A Pecos Road alignment would take 255
homes and no businesses, though up to 430 more homes could go if the freeway is
built below ground level.
How can I find out if my home is in the
alignment? Aerial maps showing the proposed alignments are available
My house is in the alignment. When will I be
bought out? ADOT wants to start buying homes in 2008. ADOT pays fair
market value, based on the sales of similar properties not located next to a
freeway. The agency also pays relocation expenses.
My house will be next to the freeway. Do I get
any money? No. Only people whose properties are in the alignment are
I see construction on new homes that are in
the freeway's alignment. Why is this allowed? ADOT has decided not to
purchase any more land in the freeway's path until a final decision is made. If
a developer owns that land and the state can't or won't buy it out, the
developer is free too build on its property.
Who can I contact to give my opinion on this
freeway? You can contact the project coordinators at (602) 712-7006,
by e-mail at TGunn@gciaz.com, or by mail at South Mountain Corridor Team, HDR,
Inc., 3200 E. Camelback Road, Suite 350, Phoenix, AZ 85018-2311. You can also
visit www.phoenix.gov to
get contact information for your City Council representative.
Where can I find more information? Reports,
answers to more frequently asked questions and newsletters are available from
ADOT at www.southmountainfreeway.com.
Also, keep checking The Arizona Republic
for the latest freeway news.