Phoenix Metro Area Projects
Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway
Frequently Asked Questions
The FAQ below provides general information related to the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway. For more detailed information, please refer to the Record of Decision or the Environmental Impact Statement documents. The Record of Decision also includes a more detailed FAQ section at Record of Decision, Volume 1, section 9, Public Outreach and Comments Received on the FEIS and Errata, and Record of Decision, Volume II, beginning on page A371.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a Record of Decision (the final decision-making document for the project) selecting a build alternative, on March 5, 2015.
ADOT is proceeding with right-of-way acquisition and the procurement of final design and construction services. The design-build-maintain contractor or “Developer” will be selected at the end of 2015 and construction will begin in early 2016. The freeway is planned to be open to traffic in late 2019 or early 2020.
The Chandler Boulevard Extension Project will be the first step in the South Mountain Freeway construction process. This extension will mitigate access/egress changes that will result from construction of the freeway. The City of Phoenix will manage construction of this extension of Chandler Boulevard from 27th Avenue alignment east one mile to the road’s current western terminus. The Chandler Boulevard extension project will begin construction in fall 2015 and will be complete in fall 2016.
The freeway is funded by state, federal, and local dollars. ADOT has determined that pursuant to the unsolicited proposal submitted to construct the freeway, construction will follow a public-private partnership helping to speed construction and reduce overall cost of the project. The freeway would not be tolled under any public-private partnership proposal, but would include a private group involved with design, construction and maintenance of the 22-mile-long freeway.
The freeway will run east and west along Pecos Road and then north and south between 55th and 63rd avenues, connecting with Interstate 10 on each end (see map
Construction will begin in early 2016. The freeway is planned to be open to traffic in late 2019 or early 2020. Funding to begin construction of the South Mountain Freeway is currently programmed and identified in the state’s Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program.
The Loop 202 (South Mountain Freeway) has been a critical part of the Maricopa Association of Governments Regional Freeway Program since it was first included in funding 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 freeway is a key component of the region’s adopted multimodal transportation plan and the Regional Freeway and Highway System and is the last piece to complete the Loop 202.
The route for the freeway was determined through a multidisciplinary process to identify a range of reasonable alternatives that were studied in detail in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The study process involved identifying, comparatively screening, and eliminating alternatives based on:
- input from the public
- a comparison of modal choices
- a multidisciplinary set of criteria evenly applied
- the historical context of the proposed action
- projected conditions with and without the alternatives being considered
The final decision on the route for the freeway alignment was a cooperative effort involving ADOT, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG). As a corridor that is part of a comprehensive regional plan developed by MAG, ADOT serves as the agency responsible for implementation of the plan, with FHWA providing the federal oversight required to access federal funds. FHWA is the lead federal agency responsible for implementing the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the governing federal law, and was responsible for the ultimate decision in selecting a route for the freeway.
While efforts to study project alternatives on Community land were attempted, the Community has long held a position of not allowing the freeway to be located on its land. For example, a coordinated referendum of Community members to favor or oppose construction of the freeway on Community land or to support a no-build option occurred in February 2012, and Community members voted in favor of the no‑build option. Therefore, the freeway cannot be located on Community land.
The study did consider a variety of transportation alternatives, modes, and strategies that would fit into the Regional Transportation Plan, including transit. The freeway option was determined to best meet the purpose and need for the project, following an extensive screening process which included evaluation of additional benefits such as system linkage, regional mobility, and consistency with regional and local long-range plans.
Public input was a vital component in the decision-making process and was solicited from project inception and through key milestones in the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) processes. The interests and needs of the public, along with all other social, economic, and environmental issues and impacts, were fully analyzed and included in the Draft and Final EIS. Comments made during development of the Draft EIS were used to adjust plans, explore new questions, or make changes—all within the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Public comments received on the Draft EIS were reviewed and addressed in the Final EIS document. Public comments received on the Final EIS were also considered and addressed appropriately in the Record of Decision.
More information about the entire public involvement process up to publication of the Final EIS is available in Chapter 6, Comments and Coordination, of the Final EIS.
Although ADOT currently owns a substantial majority of the needed right-of-way along Pecos Road, approximately 400 total properties, including approximately 200 homes, will need to be acquired to construct the freeway. ADOT's property acquisition program includes working as early as possible with property owners and providing benefits to the extent allowed by law to cover actual, reasonable moving costs and related expenses. ADOT is required to pay market value for businesses and residential properties and will provide relocation assistance.
Concerns about a specific property related to the South Mountain Freeway should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or 602.712.7006.
Right-of-way maps are available here; please check those carefully. Determination of the final right-of-way to be acquired will be made during the design phase and will involve coordination with local and regional governments.
To prepare for construction, ADOT has been contacting property owners whose properties will be impacted by freeway construction and is beginning the process to acquire properties within the freeway corridor. ADOT anticipates issuing purchase offers to property owners beginning in April 2015.
ADOT’s property acquisition program includes working as early as possible with property owners and providing benefits to the extent allowed by law to cover actual, reasonable moving costs and related expenses. ADOT is required to pay market value for businesses and residential properties and will also provide relocation assistance.
Concerns about a specific property related to the South Mountain Freeway should be directed to email@example.com or 602.712.7006.
One of the factors considered in the study was (1) the amount of truck traffic that would use the freeway and (2) its potential impact on the surrounding community. The MAG regional travel demand model forecasts approximately 10 percent truck traffic on the implemented South Mountain Freeway in 2035. The forecasted truck traffic is based on existing traffic studies and projected socioeconomic data. This percentage is similar to current traffic conditions on I-10 between Loop 101 and I-17 and on US 60.
The primary purpose of the freeway is not to create a "truck bypass" for downtown Phoenix. The freeway is part of a transportation system developed to improve mobility in the region by increasing capacity and providing traffic alternatives—including truck traffic—to other, already congested routes. Commercial trucks would use the proposed freeway. As with all other freeways in the MAG region, trucks would use it for the through‑transport of freight, for transport to and from distribution centers, and for transport to support local commerce. Like other “loop” freeways in the Phoenix metropolitan area, the South Mountain Freeway would be a commuter corridor, primarily serving automobiles and helping to move local traffic between the eastern and western portions of Maricopa County.
Arizona highways, like most highways across the United States, are open to all kinds of traffic, so long as the cargo being carried is in accordance with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations for the specific type of cargo. The Arizona Department of Transportation has a few locations in the state with hazardous cargo restrictions, but these restrictions are based on emergency response issues or roadway design limitations specific to that location. For example, the Interstate 10 Deck Park Tunnel has certain hazardous cargo transport restrictions because of the limited ability for emergency responders to address a hazardous materials incident in the tunnel. The South Mountain Freeway is expected to operate under the same rules as other similar facilities in the state; transport of hazardous cargo would be expected to be permissible.
The South Mountain Freeway will be constructed as an eight-lane freeway (three general purpose lanes and one HOV lane in each direction). This change from the original 10-lane planning concept would still meet the transportation needs outlined in the proposed project’s purpose and need criteria. There are no current plans to widen the freeway in the future.
The study team analyzed the below-ground option. In the western portion of the freeway, the option was determined to not be preferable because of the high water table near the Salt River and other physical features such as the Laveen Area Conveyance Channel, Roosevelt Irrigation District, and Union Pacific Railroad, that are not feasible for the freeway to pass under. In the eastern portion of the freeway, due to storm water flowing south off of the South Mountains, a below-ground option would not eliminate the need for mitigation for noise-related impacts and would also require:
- an additional $400 million for construction and right-of-way
- displacement of an additional 300 residences
- maintenance of additional pump stations and detention basins for the life of the freeway
Because the below-ground option would result in substantially greater costs and residential displacements, this option was eliminated from further study.
Traffic interchange locations will be approximately 1‑mile intervals, at major street crossings, listed below.
Van Buren Street
Lower Buckeye Road
Desert Foothills Parkway
It is anticipated that most of the interchanges will be elevated, with the freeway’s mainline elevated over arterial cross streets.
Federal restrictions prohibit intrusion of a federal project such as the proposed freeway into a park like South Mountain Park/Preserve, unless it can be shown that there is no feasible and prudent alternative to avoid such an intrusion. As documented in the Environmental Impact Statement, no feasible and prudent alternative(s) could be identified to avoid impacts on the park. Approximately one mile of the freeway will pass through the southwestern edge of the park. The amount of land in the park that will be affected by the freeway is 31.3 acres, which is less than 0.2 percent of the entire park.
The freeway will be designed to control storm water runoff and prevent flooding. The rates of discharge would not be greater than existing rates of discharge. Runoff from the completed freeway will be directed to existing and new drainage facilities. Existing drainage facilities with inadequate capacity will be improved to handle increased runoff flows. New runoff detention facilities might be required in some locations to limit the maximum rate of runoff released to existing drainage facilities.
In the western portion of the freeway alignment, drainage facilities ultimately discharge to the Salt River. In the eastern portion, existing drainage patterns from the South Mountains toward the Gila River would not be altered. Currently, drainage flows generally from the north to the south, passing under Pecos Road through a series of culverts following natural drainages/washes. Small drainage basins and channels on the northern side of the freeway to treat water quality and to meter and direct drainage flows under the freeway and onto the Gila River Indian Community land will function in the same manner as they are currently. ADOT has committed to continue coordination with the Gila River Indian Community on design of the drainage infrastructure through final design as well as other issues through the project development process.
Federal law requires providing access to the proposed freeway from the Community. Traffic interchanges will provide the Gila River Indian Community access to the freeway. Connection from the Community to the service traffic interchanges bordered by Community land would be the responsibility of the Community, in coordination with appropriate jurisdictions.
Approximately 117,000 to 190,000 vehicles daily would use the South Mountain Freeway in 2035.
Air quality impacts were estimated through sophisticated computer modeling based on predictions of the amount and nature of traffic under worst-case scenarios. The emissions models are based on extensive emissions testing that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has conducted on thousands of vehicles representative of the ages and models of the vehicle fleet on the roads today
The carbon monoxide and particulate matter (PM10) analyses demonstrated that the freeway will not contribute to any new localized violations, increase the frequency or severity of any existing violation, or delay timely attainment of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards or any required interim emissions reductions or other milestones.
Since ozone is a regional pollutant, there is no requirement to analyze potential impacts and no possibility of localized violations of ozone to occur at the project level. The Maricopa Association of Governments is responsible for developing plans to reduce emissions of ozone precursors in the Maricopa area. The South Mountain Freeway is included in the Regional Transportation Plan that has been determined by the U.S. Department of Transportation to conform to the State Implementation Plan on February 12, 2014.
The emission modeling developed for the freeway showed that for the mobile source air toxics study area, there would be little difference in total annual emissions of mobile source air toxics emissions (less than a 1 percent difference) in 2025 and 2035. In addition, beginning in 2017, the new EPA Tier 3 vehicle and fuel standards will reduce tailpipe and evaporative emissions and reduce mobile source air toxics.
The Record of Decision discusses the air quality analyses in greater detail.