PHOENIX – Construction of the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway is scheduled to begin in early September after the U.S. District Court in Phoenix dismissed legal challenges and ruled that the Arizona Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration completed all steps required to move forward.
“This is a momentous day, not only for ADOT but for our many partners – including the city of Phoenix, the Maricopa Association of Governments and the Federal Highway Administration – who helped develop the most extensive environmental review of any highway project to date in Arizona. More importantly, this is a clear victory for the region, which will benefit from a new transportation corridor and, with it, the economic development that will follow,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “This east-west alternative will connect people with employment, entertainment and educational centers in parts of the Phoenix metropolitan area that are projected to see considerable growth. The ruling today affirms the good work of the entire project team.”
In a ruling released Friday, Aug. 19, the judge found that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate, as claimed, that ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration didn’t meet requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws.
“Plaintiffs have not met their burden to show the Agencies’ actions were ‘arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law …’ or ‘without observance of procedure required by law,’” the ruling concludes.
Construction of the South Mountain Freeway will begin in early September at the I-10/Loop 202 (Santan Freeway) traffic interchange. Crews also will begin relocating native plants along the right of way for transplanting later.
The 22-mile freeway, expected to open by late 2019, will provide a long-planned direct link between the East Valley and West Valley and a much-needed alternative to Interstate 10 through downtown Phoenix. Approved by Maricopa County voters in 1985 and again in 2004 as part of a comprehensive regional transportation plan, the South Mountain Freeway will complete the Loop 202 and Loop 101 freeway system in the Valley.
In February, ADOT finalized the state’s first highway public-private partnership agreement through which the project team, Connect 202 Partners, will build the freeway at a taxpayer savings of more than $100 million and will open it to traffic three years sooner than originally projected.
The fixed $916 million contract for design and construction makes this the largest highway project in state history. The development team will be responsible for 30 years of maintenance following the completion of the project, supporting construction with innovation and built-in cost efficiencies for the long term.
With construction scheduled to begin in early September, ADOT has been conducting preliminary engineering, addressing cultural resources in the right of way, acquiring and preparing properties, and relocating utilities. ADOT received final federal clearance to move forward with the project in 2015.
The South Mountain Freeway will be constructed with four lanes in each direction – three general-use lanes and one HOV lane – and include modern features including rubberized asphalt and aesthetics reflecting the neighboring communities.
The full ruling is available at bit.ly/2bDBa4g.
For more information on the project, visit azdot.gov/SouthMountainFreeway.