Jaunice Wilson and her daughter Jolie, 7, look at a map during the ADOT hosted Loop 202 forum at the Foothills Golf Club on Tuesday, June 18, 2013.

[David Jolkovski/AFN]

It has been almost a year since the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the South Mountain Freeway. ADOT is still saying it expects a decision to be made on the project by the end of 2014.

The DEIS was released on April 26, 2013. After a 90-day comment period ADOT officials said they had received about 8,000 comments. Those comments will all be reviewed and responded to in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which ADOT expects to be released this summer.

The public will be given 60 days to comment on the FEIS.

ADOT expects to have a record of decision on the project from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) by fall of 2014.

In December of 1997, ADOT released a DEIS for the Red Mountain Freeway. The agency received a record of decision for that project at the end of August 1999. This is the first FEIS ADOT has released since that time, but the projected timeline is similar.

Jim Jochim, treasurer of Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children (PARC), the group that has been actively fighting the Loop 202, said he’s not sure ADOT will be able to reach its goal if they take the comments seriously.

“We, meaning the group represented by PARC, submitted over 300 pages of comments backed up by six outside experts,” he said. “That will take substantial time to analyze and properly respond to. If they choose to do a rapid response, quick and dirty, that’s their prerogative. That really gets into how seriously ADOT and FHWA are treating PARC.”

Once ADOT does receive a record of decision PARC is prepared to take them to court to stop the freeway, arguing the proposed project will violate environmental and cultural laws. The group has hosted several fundraisers and has raised $100,000 to cover court costs. They estimate they’ll need close to $500,000 in the end.

A private group has approached ADOT with a proposal to build the South Mountain Freeway, but ADOT will still need a record of decision from the federal government before the project can move forward.

For more information on the project, visit southmountainfreeway.com.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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