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Native American tribe sues to block Phoenix-area freeway

PHOENIX — A Native American tribe has filed a lawsuit to block a controversial Phoenix-area freeway.

Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis said the Arizona Department of Transportation did not take his tribe’s concerns into consideration when the agency decided to proceed with the South Mountain Freeway.

“Our health, cultural and spiritual concerns were not adequately addressed in the final record of decision nor the environmental impact statement process,” he said.

Lewis said the freeway — which would connect the Loop 202 near Ahwatukee to Interstate 10 in the West Valley — would not only cut through sacred land, but also major tribal water sources.

The tribe’s suit joins another filed in May by residents.

“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 May press conference announcing the suit, Lawlis alleged ADOT 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 said it has followed all the steps to build the freeway. The agency has begun buying homes along the future freeway’s path.

KTAR’s Martha Maurer contributed to this report.