By: Emily Richardson
In early 2017, Arizona’s Department of Transportation will begin construction on their South Mountain Freeway. The freeway is a 156-plus-square-mile project that includes cutting a 22-foot-wide path through South Mountain. The project will cost about $1.77 billion dollars to complete the entire 22-mile freeway.
The South Mountain Freeway project began in 1983, when it was introduced as the “Southwest Loop Highway.” It was approved by voters in 1985 and a state environmental impact study in 1988 but due to budgeting problems it got delayed. In 2001, ADOT began initiated a federal level environmental impact study. They got the go ahead in 2017 and shortly after began preliminary construction on Pecos Road.
There is an appeal filed by the Gila River Indian Community and Protect Arizona’s Children and Resources with the Ninth Circuit wanting to stop the creation of the freeway. But an order released in January allows to proceed working on the freeway while the appeal is pending in court, ADOT said. One of the concerns is that the construction will be destroying part of Native American’s native land.
Federal restrictions prohibit intrusions by federal projects into parks such as South Mountain Preserve, unless they can prove there is no feasible and prudent alternative. ADOT’s environmental impact study proved just that. ADOT’s public information officer says, “[there will be] 15 million hours of savings for commuters when we build this freeway. That equates to [a] 200 billion dollar impact.”
Major construction on the freeway will start in March of 2017. The construction includes parts of their I-1o Papago, Salt River, and Pecos Segments. ADOT tells citizens to stay safe and updated by signing up for traffic alerts on southmountainfreeway.com