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ADOT releases South Mountain Freeway study

The proposed South Mountain Freeway moved one step closer to construction on Friday – nearly 30 years after it was originally proposed. After the decades-long wait, the state transportation department has released the first draft of an impact study for the final phase of Loop 202.

The South Mountain Freeway would allow drivers headed West on I-10 from Tucson to bypass downtown Phoenix. The study suggests five different routes and outlines more than two dozen possible impacts, including pollution and home demolitions. ADOT spokesman Tim Tait says there’s no doubt the $1.9 billion project would affect the communities that surround it.

“But at the same time, there are impacts if we do nothing,” he said. “So, we have to evaluate all of that and make a decision that makes good sense for the traveling public and for the Valley at large.”

Tait says this project is needed to fight future congestion. The final draft of the study won’t come out until July, after the public has provided input.

Opponent Lori Riddle lives in the nearby Gila River Indian Community, which voted last year to keep ADOT from building on its land. Riddle says that vote won’t stop the proposed eight-lane freeway from impacting her home.

“We have two mountains that are basically like walls, that are parallel in that area,” she said. “It will hold the pollution in, and it will just linger.”

All proposed versions of the freeway cut through a small section of South Mountain, which Riddle says is sacred to her tribe.

This study is the latest step in a process that began back in 1985. ADOT says construction could start as soon as 2015, and should last about five years.