At three public meetings this week anti-freeway demonstrators spoke out about the possible Loop 202 extension through South Mountain, citing environmental and cultural impacts the freeway would have on the surrounding area.
Demonstrators showed up with signs and T-shirts at the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Citizens Transportation Oversight Committee meeting on Tuesday, the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) Transportation Policy Committee on Wednesday, and the MAG Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee on Thursday. Each day their message was the same: “Stop the South Mountain Freeway.”
“It was a way to start the year off,” said Jezz Putnam, who has helped organize many events opposing the freeway. Putnam has been studying the freeway for years. “I can’t speak for others, but we were here around the same time last year and I don’t think I’ve seen much more intention in actually hearing what’s been said about the preference for no build, especially from the Gila River Indian Community. I don’t think the suggestions for opening it up for ideas on alternative forms of transportation have been taken seriously.”
Members of the group did encourage members of MAG to study alternative forms of transportation. They also reminded those at the meeting of the significance South Mountain has to the culture of the Gila River Indian Community.
Organizers are still waiting for ADOT to release a Draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS). It’s unknown when the study will be released. Once it is released there will be 90 days of public comment before ADOT drafts a final EIS.
A group called the GRIC Landowners have filed an initiative with the tribe in an attempt to get them to vote once again to put the freeway on a portion of tribal land, as well as through allotted lands, which are owned by individuals. Signatures for that initiative have been verified but they have not been presented to the tribe’s Legislative Standing Committee. That committee will send the signatures on to the council who can either accept the initiative as is or send it to a public vote. It is expected to go to a public vote.
The initiative is expected to go before the council in early February.
Still, demonstrators this week hope ADOT and MAG will remember that “No Build” is still an option.
“While there is a point for protesting for visibility, I do honestly hope that after three days of continuous people pleading and asking to be heard, that someone hears it and changes the way they’re personally living their life and try to help the Valley and look at what their job is for,” Putnam said.
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