Months after the group known as Gila River Landowners announced it had collected enough signatures for a new voter initiative on the Loop 202 freeway those signatures still have not been turned in, and an exact timeline for the vote is still unknown.
Joseph Perez of Pangea Development, who has been working with the landowners to collect signatures, said the group has collected more than enough signatures for a new initiative.
“Currently the GRIC Landowners are collaborating with Tribal Administration to define the process and timeline associated with verifying the signatures that were collected for the initiative,” Perez wrote in an email. “Once the process is clear and a timeline is given, we will turn the signatures over.”
The Landowners say they’ve collected more than 1,300 signatures and that over 800 are verified registered voters. The group needed 643 signatures to have a new vote for the Loop 202.
The vote is for a different proposal than the one voted on in February when the community chose “no build.” This new initiative would place the Loop 202 on privately owned allotted lands and a portion of tribal land, rather than the Pecos alignment.
Perez said the Landowners anticipate turning in the signatures in the next couple of weeks. They will continue to collect signatures until they turn in the petition.
Further delaying a final decision on the freeway, the Arizona Department of Transportation still has not released a draft environmental impact statement, which was roughly estimated to be released this summer.
“The Arizona Department of Transportation, the Maricopa Association of Governments and the Federal Highway Administration continue to evaluate the proposed South Mountain Freeway, analyzing the engineering options and potential environmental impacts,” Tim Tait of the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) said in an email. “The Draft Environmental Impact Statement will contain the results of this analysis. Following the Federal Highway Administration’s approval, the Draft EIS and Location/Design Concept Report will be available for public review — currently anticipated in early 2013.”
The public will have 90 days to comment on the draft EIS once it is released and all comments will be addressed in the final EIS, Tait said.
Local environmental group Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children, has plans in place to bring up litigation once the final EIS is released.
“The study team is working diligently to resolve the outstanding issues to prepare the Draft EIS for public review; this project remains a top priority for the region,” Tait said.
Information on the study and the future release of the draft EIS will be available on the study website at www.southmountainfreeway.com.
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