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Construction of the South Mountain Freeway could begin soon

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Construction of the South Mountain Freeway could begin next month after a federal court in Phoenix dismissed legal challenges.

The U.S. District Court ruled Friday the Arizona Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration completed all steps required to move forward.

“There was litigation against the South Mountain Freeway, but (Friday) a judge validated what most Valley motorists already know; that without this project, our regional freeways and our local roads are going to suffer even greater congestion, more travel delays and limited options for moving people and goods,” said Dustin Krugel, who is a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation. “But this freeway will address that and it will be a huge benefit to the region.”

The Gila River Indian Community and a coalition of environmental and community groups said they’ll appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, as the tribe says South Mountain is considered a sacred and cultural resource.

But Krugel said they expect the 22-mile long freeway that will connect the southwest and southeast region of Phoenix to open by 2019. The South Mountain Freeway will start at the Interstate 10, Loop 202 interchange near Chandler and will wrap around South Mountain before connecting to I-10 in the west valley near 59th Avenue.

Approved by Maricopa County voters in 1985 and 2004 as part of a comprehensive regional transportation plan, the South Mountain Freeway will complete the Loop 202 and Loop 101 system.

“Without this true connection between the southwest and southeast areas of Phoenix, traffic will continue to rely on these overburden roadways such as I-10 to the Broadway curve that motorists who travel through the Broadway curve during rush hour already see first-hand the gridlock we already face today on some of our roadways,” Krugel said.

“Today is a huge victory for Valley motorists as Phoenix continues to grow. We need to keep traffic moving and this project will help address that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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