FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Kelly Taft
PHOENIX (February 8, 2012) — A vote by the Gila River Indian Community — which unofficially appears to favor a “no-build” option for construction of the South Mountain Loop 202 Freeway — means that the study of the Pecos Road (off-Community) alignment continues. The Community position will be considered as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
“We respect the Gila River Indian Community as a sovereign nation, and we are grateful to the Community Council for allowing members to vote on whether to consider an on-Community alignment of the South Mountain Freeway,” said Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) Chair and Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman. “This vote is a significant milestone in the process and allows us to focus our efforts now exclusively on the Pecos Road alignment. The no-build option is also an alternative,” Hallman stated, “Although early studies have indicated there is a strong ‘purpose and need’ for the facility.”
At the request of the Gila River Indian Community, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and MAG have worked together over the past two years to identify a potential freeway alignment on Community land. The alignment followed a route consistent with the Community’s 1998 Gila Borderlands Regional Planning Study. When no “fatal flaws” were identified, in late 2011 the Community Council passed a resolution to hold a Community-wide referendum on the freeway. The referendum asked members whether they supported an on-Community alignment, supported an off-Community alignment, or whether they supported a “no-build” alternative.
The “no-build” vote means that the study of the Pecos Road alignment continues as the only alignment alternative in the eastern portion of the study area (east of South Mountain). The preliminary preferred alignment for the northwestern leg of the freeway would follow a route along 59th Avenue.
The vote by the Community essentially leaves only two options: an alignment along Pecos or the no-build alternative. The Draft EIS is scheduled for public review later in 2012. Members of the public will have 90 days to provide comments. They will have 60 days to respond to the Final EIS before a Record of Decision is announced by the Federal Highway Administration. MAG and ADOT will continue to work with the Gila River Indian Community to address concerns.
“The South Mountain Freeway is the last piece to complete the Loop 202 system necessary for high-quality regional mobility,” said Mayor Hallman. “It provides an important link between the southeast and southwest areas of the Valley and an alternative route to Interstate 10. It is also an important piece of the overall regional system,” he said.
Construction for the South Mountain Freeway is currently scheduled to begin in the 2014-2015 timeframe, with a budget of $1.9 billion.
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