Many Ahwatukee residents now believe that not only is the South Mountain Freeway a “done deal” but also that the lawsuit contesting it is over.
The trip through the courts has been a very long, drawn-out ordeal.
The lawsuit, however, is far from over.
The case has dragged on in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals both because attorneys have asked for more time (perhaps just to slow things down) and because the court scheduling is incredibly slow.
The latest news is that the oral arguments will be scheduled for sometime in October. The exact date will be announced about 10 weeks ahead of time.
When the case was filed last year, it seemed certain to be settled by now. At this point, it seems that we should have a ruling by the end of the year, and it should be a holiday present for all of us.
It is hard to look at the destruction ongoing on Pecos Road and remain optimistic.
It is depressing to see all the trees gone, the median eliminated, and bridge construction beginning. Surely, the court would not stop it now that all this work is done. Right?
The Arizona Department of Transportation has never been challenged before, so officials think they can get away with anything they want.
The court says otherwise. Precedents from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit say otherwise.
The court rules on the law, not how much has been done and how much money has already been spent.
So, what does the law say about the way this freeway has been planned?
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Transportation Act are both clear in their requirements. This freeway does not meet them. In prior cases, precedents from the Ninth Circuit agree.
All the money ADOT has been spending on this freeway has been a gamble. Officials think nothing of spending millions of our tax dollars to fund this freeway that is still being contested.
They have also been spending millions of our tax dollars to fund private attorneys to defend ADOT in court.
Think about this.
The Arizona Attorney General’s office has plenty of attorneys available, and several of them are involved in this suit. Officials still think it necessary to spend additional millions for outside legal representation.
Do you wonder why? It is because their case is very weak!
So, when a candidate for City Council says he is sure that this freeway will not be stopped, he has no idea what he is talking about.
He has clearly done no homework on the subject and has formed his opinion simply by listening to ADOT.
ADOT has a good public relations office, but it only releases propaganda provided by ADOT officials. Unfortunately, at least in this case, those officials cannot be trusted.
The bottom line is that ADOT has wasted millions of our tax dollars and continues to do so.
Once the freeway is stopped, ADOT will need to spend millions more to “fix” the mess they have made and will continue to make until construction is stopped.
-Pat Lawlis is president of Ahwatukee-based Protect Arizona’s Resources and Children, which is suing to stop the South Mountain Freeway.