There was an impressive turnout at the Foothills Golf Club in Ahwatukee on June 18 when the Arizona Department of Transportation hosted a final community forum on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement of the South Mountain Freeway.
Hundreds showed up to review information, ask questions and submit comments.
“I am not surprised by the turnout,” said Bill Ramsey, an Ahwatukee resident who has made it a goal to attend the public meetings to share his opposition for the freeway. “Ahwatukee residents are active. They vote with their feet. They speak their mind. That’s what makes this such a wonderful community. Ahwatukee collectively will not roll over on this.”
Recent ADOT meetings have not been so well attended. The final South Mountain Citizen’s Advisory Team meeting at South Mountain Community College had fewer than five people in the audience. Many said they attended this particular meeting to help clear up the rumors they’ve heard.
“I’m in real estate and it seems like a lot of rumors and confusion amongst residents,” said Janice Wilson. “Though you may welcome or resist change it’s the unknown. I don’t want to be responsible for giving someone the wrong information. I’m really selling these places (in Ahwatukee). I need to give these people accurate information.
“If you were moving here and I sold you a house in the beautiful Foothills Preserve and I didn’t disclose to you this freeway because, to me as a realtor, this is an option that’s not decided, I would be (miffed) with me. It’s not an option. That needs to be made clear.”
The Draft Environmental Impact Study, or DEIS, is the first step in finalizing the freeway’s alignment. After the public comment period, which ends July 24, ADOT and the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) will review all the comments made and include those in the Final Environmental Impact Statement. That document will be used to get a final Record of Decision (ROD) from the Federal Highway Administration.
Once a ROD is received the project will move into the design phase when more detailed issues will be addressed.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Pam Packer said she came to the meeting to get specific questions answered, but she was disappointed to hear those couldn’t be addressed until later.
“I think this is all very much up in the air…,” she said. “I don’t think we really know if their answers are quite true yet.”
The forum was heavily populated with members of Ahwatukee-based PARC (Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children) who passed out pamphlets opposing the freeway.
“This is totally environmentally unsound,” said Ahwatukee Foothills resident Randy Gallagher, who added that he has canvassed with PARC in his neighborhood. “What they’re trying to do is totally unethical. They’re trying to shove this down our throat. They won’t be able to meet environmental standards.”
Gallagher said he travels to the West Valley often for work, but he’s concerned about his grandchildren living in Ahwatukee who would be exposed to more pollution if the freeway were to go through.
MAG and ADOT are confident they would be able to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality standards and say that the South Mountain Freeway would actually help with air pollution since it will help relieve some traffic congestion. Those issues are discussed in more detail in the DEIS, which is available for public review at southmountainfreeway.com.
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