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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

South Mountain Draft Environmental Impact Statement now available for review, comments

The proposed Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway has a history that dates back to 1985, but we’re not going to blog about the project’s timeline today…

We’ll bring you a project overview soon, or, if you can’t wait, there are many, many details over on our South Mountain Web pages.

What we do want to tell you about right now is that an important public input process for the South Mountain Freeway Draft Environmental Impact Statement has just begun.

What’s a draft environmental impact statement?
The six-chapter document covers potential impacts from building or not building a freeway, coordination with the Gila River Indian Community, purpose and need for a new freeway, alternatives studied and public outreach efforts since the study was launched in 2001.

ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration released the document on April 26, launching a 90-day public review period that will feature a day-long public hearing on May 21.

Finding the draft
The draft environmental document can be found on the project website — and at the following locations in the community:
  • Phoenix Public Library – Ironwood Branch, 4333 E. Chandler Blvd., Phoenix 
  • Phoenix Public Library – Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 N. Central Ave., Phoenix 
  • FedEx Office Print and Ship Center, 4940 E. Ray Road, Phoenix 
  • Sam Garcia Western Avenue Library, 495 E. Western Ave., Avondale 
  • Tolleson Public Library, 9555 W. Van Buren St., Tolleson 
  • ADOT Environmental Planning Group, 1611 W. Jackson St., Phoenix (call 602-712-7767 for appointment) 

More on the project
The proposed South Mountain Freeway has been a critical part of the Maricopa Association of Governments’ Regional Freeway Program since it was first included in funding through Proposition 300 approved by Maricopa County voters in 1985. The freeway was also part of the Regional Transportation Plan funding passed by Maricopa County voters in 2004 through Proposition 400.

The South Mountain Freeway is the last piece to complete the Loop 202 and Loop 101 freeway system necessary for high-quality regional mobility, according to the project’s engineers.

How to voice your opinion
The public will be able to provide comments in a variety of ways during the 90-day public comment period:
  • Attending a public hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on May 21 at the Phoenix Convention Center (see map below for details)
  • Providing input by email at projects@azdot.gov
  • Submitting online comments HERE
  • Calling 602.712.7006 
  • Mailing comments to the South Mountain Study Team, 1655 W. Jackson St., MD 126F, Phoenix, AZ 85007 

The 90-day public review window is twice the amount of time required under federal law. Public comments must be submitted by July 24.

Click on map for larger view.
Following review of the draft environmental impact statement, the project’s study team will incorporate input gained from comments to produce the final environmental impact statement.

This final document will have a 60-day public review period. A record of decision is expected in 2014.

Funding for the South Mountain Freeway is already available in the MAG Regional Transportation Plan; construction of the freeway, if approved, could begin as soon as 2015. The eight-lane freeway would run from I-10 in the West Valley along 59th Avenue, cut across the southwest corner of South Mountain Park and connect with Pecos Road on the south side of Ahwatukee to connect with I-10 and the Loop 202 Santan Freeway. The 22- to 24-mile-long freeway has a $1.9 billion budget, allocated through voter-approved transportation funds as outlined in the Maricopa Association of Governments’ Regional Transportation Plan.

For more information on how to participate in the study review process, visit the South Mountain Freeway Web page.
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