By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
A lawsuit filed Tuesday in Federal District Court in Phoenix by a coalition of nine community and environmental groups alleges the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration failed to adequately assess community, health and environmental impacts in preparing for the planned Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway expansion and provided misleading information in the push to gain approval for the project.
The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order against the project, set to begin construction next year, until the allegations can be resolved in court.
In a statement on the Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children website, the group alleges FHA and ADOT:
- Misused the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process trying to rationalize a decision made 30 years ago;
- Provided inadequate and misleading information regarding traffic;
- Provided inadequate and misleading information regarding air pollution;
- Failed to adequately consider health impacts, particularly on children;
- Failed to make a special effort to preserve the natural beauty of a public park;
- Refused to consider impacts associated with transportation of hazardous materials;
- Failed to adequately consider the impacts on ground water resources.
Originally conceived in the 1980s, the proposed 22-mile freeway extension along Pecos Road, curving northward to connect with I-10 at 59th Avenue, has a $1.75B budget and is expected to take four years to complete.
In a statement issued in response to the lawsuit, ADOT says the eight-lane freeway has been an important part of the region’s freeway planning since it initially gained voter approval in 1985.
Voters again approved the measure in 2004 as part of Proposition 400. The goal of the expansion is to provide commuters in the south Valley with an alternative route for their travels and to funnel truck traffic in the area away from I-10 to alleviate congestion.
Protests occur despite timeline
According to ADOT, “An extensive environmental review process that encompassed more than a decade of comprehensive analysis, with various formal and informal opportunities for the public to learn about the project and provide comment.”
ADOT received a final decision from FHA in March to proceed with construction plans. ADOT has a webpage with an overview of the project plans and details of its environmental documentation.
Project construction plans include a sound buffering wall and rubberized asphalt to mitigate noise impact on the surrounding area. Resident representatives claim the buffering is not sufficient.
In a statement provided to KPHO, ADOT spokesperson Tim Tait said, “Any legal challenge will not delay this project. It has been wanted by the community for more than 20 years, and we intend to deliver.”
ADOT is in the process of acquiring approximately 200 homes in the area that will make way for construction.