Allison Hurtado’s article, “Freeways have economic benefits” (AFN, June 25), demonstrates the myopic view proponents have of the proposed South Mountain Loop 202. For proponents, there are only benefits to consider, never costs. While there may be benefits attributable to this proposed project, there certainly are costs, and it is these costs that must be carefully considered in the process of deciding should the freeway be built or not.
Just to be clear, opponents of the South Mountain Freeway (SMF) are not against economic growth; it’s just that we don’t favor economic growth at the expense of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the community we live in. And the SMF will adversely impact all three and a lot more. This we know. Bureaucrats within the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) are playing their “damage mitigation” game in an effort to get the project approved, but anyone following this can see that using the existing Pecos Road alignment will be catastrophic to Ahwatukee and South Mountain.
Proponents of the SMF need to put on another pair of glasses to view this project through a clearer set of lenses. For example, the article quoted Mr. Roc Arnett, president of the East Valley Partnership, extolling the virtues of the proposed SMF as if it were a ride at Disneyland. The reality is the proposed SMF will be a dirty, congested, accident-filled urban corridor. Saying travel times will be reduced in perpetuity is utopian. Using the example “Johnny’s T-ball game and Suzie’s dance practice” as economic benefits is appallingly shallow, and doesn’t even begin to justify an outlay of at least $2 billion-plus dollars of public money, not to mention the heavy costs associated with the impacts to Ahwatukee neighborhoods and South Mountain.
I would also like to address two other points made in the article. There was reference to ADOT having already purchased land for right of way as some kind of justification or de facto approval for the project. ADOT may have purchased land for right of way back in the 1980s, but it is still required to meet the stricter National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for approval. Now, 12 years and $20 million in public funds later, ADOT and MAG have struggled to even reach the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) phase, and it will be another six to 12 months to get past the DEIS phase. ADOT and MAG may have right of way, but they still don’t have their freeway.
Finally, the article references a poll commissioned by the organization We Build Arizona showing “a majority of Maricopa County voters still approve of the freeway.” This is the height of anecdotal and bias, and is an obvious attempt to show public support for a project that is anything but popular — except within the corridors of ADOT, MAG, and the East Valley Partnership.