Vernon Parker, Republican candidate for Congressional District 9, came out in favor of a ‘no build’ option for the Loop 202 Freeway extension on Sunday, Earth Day.
“We must be good stewards of our state’s natural beauty,” Parker said in a statement. “Unfortunately some bureaucrats have other plans for Ahwatukee. I believe the proposed 202 Freeway through Ahwatukee does significant harm to the air quality for its citizens, especially to the children who attend the numerous schools along the proposed pathway. Equally objectionable is the idea of putting a 10-lane super highway through South Mountain Park. Somehow this idea makes little to no sense.
“It’s time for common sense to prevail. The Pecos Road alignment fails miserably. That is why I am announcing my support for the ‘no build’ option and urge Maricopa Association of Governments to reconsider this idea. As a member of Congress I would fight to protect the citizens of Ahwatukee from bad ideas such as this.”
Parker said as far as building the freeway on tribal land goes, the tribe has spoken and they are a sovereign nation. His concern is saving the mountain and stopping the pollution.
Other candidates have not taken such a solid position. Leah Campos Schandlbauer, Wendy Rogers and David Schapira all said they’ve been talking to residents in the area but haven’t formed an official stance yet. Kyrsten Sinema’s campaign did not wish to comment and Andrei Cherny did not respond to requests for comment.
Former Chandler City Councilman Martin Sepulveda said while cutting through South Mountain would be expensive and probably unnecessary, some solution is needed.
“I’m not a subject matter expert,” Sepulveda said. “I know the tribe doesn’t want that because they consider the mountain sacred. I do know blowing through rock is very expensive. At the end of the day we have to consider how to connect the 202 and the costs. As far as the East Valley is concerned, we need it.”
The freeway extension may not be an issue that a U.S. Congressman has any effect on but Travis Grantham promised to prevent federal funding of the extension until a solution is reached.
“While I believe that this is more of a state of Arizona issue than it is a national issue I would offer to my future constituents the promise of fighting to prevent federal funding of the extension if elected to represent the Ninth Congressional District until a realistic solution was proposed,” Grantham said. “I do believe the freeway would help many commuting motorists and would benefit many large trucks that would bypass downtown Phoenix, improving commute times and congestion. However, the people most affected by this are the people of Ahwatukee and those of the Gila River Indian Community. Based on the current route plan, the vast majority of my potential future constituents are against the freeway and I would honor their wishes and represent their concerns to the best of my ability.”
Grantham said he has heard of alternative routes from talking to residents like a possible express freeway joining at Riggs Road with the consent of the Gila River Indian Community.
“I have had the benefit of working directly with The Gila River Indian Community directly on numerous issues as my company, International Air Response, held a long-term lease on Memorial Airfield located at I-10 and Queen Creek Road for over 30 years,” Grantham said. “If approached correctly, I am convinced that the tribe would be more than willing to do what was best for both the members of their community and for the residents of Ahwatukee.”
Gila River landowners are still working on collecting signatures for a new initiative to have the extension built on privately owned tribal lands while the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Maricopa Association of Governments are moving forward with studies of the Pecos Road Alignment.
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