Questions Surrounding Freeway
Uncertainty remains the only sure thing in the ongoing battle to build the South Mountain Freeway.
The Arizona Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration continue to work on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement detailing the effects of the proposed project. The process includes changing the freeway’s size from 10 lanes to eight lanes – three general purpose lanes and a HOV lane in each direction – and evaluating a revised connection with Interstate 10 at 59th Avenue.
Additional changes are also being incorporated to reduce freeways costs.
Once the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is complete, it will be released for public review for 90 days.
“It is the city’s understanding that ADOT will be introducing the compiled DEIS document to the public in the next couple of months for public review in anticipation for the project’s Public Hearing Meeting,” said District 7 Councilman Michael Nowakowski. “We will keep the community apprised of any developments as things continue to move forward.”
Freeway alignment continues to be an issue on both sides of South Mountain. Last February, representatives from the ADOT, FHWA and the Maricopa Association of Governments, along with the City of Phoenix, held a public meeting to show residents two proposed options for the South Mountain Freeway through Laveen. Stretching from Baseline to Elliot roads, the routes extend from 61st Avenue west to 63rd Avenue and tie in with the 59th Avenue Alignment Alternative.
The 63rd Avenue Alternative, which is not consistent with the City of Phoenix General Plan, was originally presented to the public in November 2005 and identified as the preliminary preferred build alternative seven months later.
The 61st Avenue Alternative goes along with the General Plan and follows the 1988 alignment. However, it also threatens properties deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, while the 63rd Avenue option avoids them.
According to Tim Tait, an ADOT spokesperson, engineering options and potential environmental impacts of both alignments through Laveen are still being analyzed.
“The Draft Environmental Impact Statement will contain the results of this analysis and will announce the recommended alignment in Laveen,” said Tait, adding that the public review process for the report is anticipated to begin in early 2013.
After the 90-day review process, all substantive comments will be included and responded to in a Final Environmental Impact Statement. The public will then have an opportunity to provide feedback during a 60-day public comment period.
Nowakowski sees the freeway as critical piece in Laveen’s future. In addition to serving as the final link connecting the East and West Valley, he says the $2 billion project will stimulate new job growth and development in a part of the city that he believes has been neglected and under served for the past 25 years.
“Once the alignment is set and plans are drawn, the potential for Laveen will know no bounds,” Nowakowski added. “Existing plans for a hospital, a regional mall and entertainment venues like a movie theater are primed and ready to be put into action.”
Information regarding the ongoing freeway study and the future release of the Draft EIS is available at www.southmountainfreeway.com.