PHOENIX — Opponents of a proposed freeway in the Ahwatukee area of Phoenix filed a lawsuit Tuesday to block the roadway’s construction.
“Move the freeway somewhere else or just scrap the idea,” Pat Lawlis with Protecting Arizona Resources and Children said of the lawsuit’s demand.
During a press conference announcing the suit, Lawlis alleged the Arizona Department of Transportation did not complete due diligence in its study of the South Mountain Freeway — particularly when the agency states the freeway will cut down on commutes.
“$2 billion would be spent to save one minute,” Lawlis said, adding the average Ahwatukee commute to downtown Phoenix would be be cut from 27 minutes to 26 minutes.
ADOT spokesman Tim Tait said the freeway would not only cut down on commutes, but it is the final cog in a countywide system designed to improve traffic flow.
“Doing nothing is not an option here,” he said. “This is really the final segment that completes the loop system in Maricopa County. The entire system was designed as a system.”
Lawlis said the freeway would place 17 schools with 15,000 students into a zone that would be negatively affected by air pollution, something Tait said is untrue.
“We have freeways are nearby many communities and we don’t see the problems that they’re alleging,” the agency’s spokesman said.
Tait said the lawsuit will show the agency did its homework on the freeway.
“We’ve collected more than 8,000 comments from residents across Maricopa County and we’ve applied those comments to the environmental review,” he said.
Lisa Briddle with the Gila River Alliance for a Clean Environment said ADOT neglected to include Native American concerns in its study.
“This mountain is sacred to us,” she said. “It’s like a church to us.”
Attorney Howard Shanker said ADOT based the freeway’s location on a decision made in the early 1980s, something he called “irresponsible.”
“At the end of the day, what this (lawsuit) is about is accountability,” he said.
Tait said the freeway is not the will of ADOT, but of voters.
“This isn’t ADOT’s plan,” he said. “This isn’t ADOT’s freeway. This is a freeway that’s twice been voted on by members of this community, by members of Maricopa County.”
KTAR’s John Roller contributed to this report.