PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Transportation, along with the Federal Highway Administration, have asked a court to dismiss lawsuits challenging the South Mountain Freeway.
In an April 25 motion, the departments argued that voters have wanted the freeway — which would extend the Loop 202 from its current end point at Interstate 10 and Pecos Road to about 59th Avenue, where it would cut north to reconnect with I-10 — for years.
“The need for the South Mountain Freeway is clear, and Valley voters have realized this for more than 30 years,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said.
Both lawsuits — one from residents who would live near the freeway and another from a Native American tribe — accuse ADOT of failing to carry out due diligence in regards to its environment impact study.
“Move the freeway somewhere else or just scrap the idea,” Pat Lawlis with Protecting Arizona Resources and Children said of the lawsuit’s demand when it was filed last May.
The Gila River Indian Community said the freeway would cut through sacred land and major tribal water sources.
“Our health, cultural and spiritual concerns were not adequately addressed in the final record of decision nor the environmental impact statement process,” Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis said when the tribe filed.
Halikowski said his agency worked with the federal government to decide on the route.
“While there is no perfect freeway project, ADOT and the [FHA] have worked to study the likely impacts of this project and designed ways to minimize those impacts, just as we have done for decades throughout the Valley as the freeway system was developed,” he said.
Both agencies are scheduled to argue their case in U.S. District Court in Phoenix on May 11.
ADOT is scheduled to begin construction on the project later this summer. The agency believes it will be completed years ahead of schedule and cost $122 million less than original estimates.
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