Bob Hazlett, senior engineer for the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), continues the misinformation game that MAG and the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) have played over the course of the past decade with this iteration of the proposed South Mountain Freeway project in his assertion that the “no build” option isn’t viable (“The fight goes on: GRIC vote takes freeway off tribal land, battle continues to save South Mountain,” AFN, Feb. 10).

Let me get this straight: after 10 years the project study is still incomplete, we have no Environmental Impact Statement (or the requisite public comment thereon), and no record of decision indicating the project has passed federal muster.

Yet, MAG somehow knows we need this freeway. Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this picture?

To be clear, the “no build” option, otherwise known as “no decision,” is an essential part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process to ensure that scarce federal dollars aren’t wasted on a defective project.

As proof of this, I attended a citizen’s advisory meeting in October of 2003, where Bill Vachon, then the Federal Highway Administration’s ranking district engineer, was asked point blank what it would take for the freeway to be a “no build.”

Vachon replied one way would be for the project to have defects severe enough so that the Federal Highway Administration would not fund the project.

The other “no build” decision would occur, according to Vachon, if public opposition to the project was so great the Federal Highway Administration would reconsider pursuing the project. I knew that night that the South Mountain Freeway would be a “no build.”

The proposed freeway is just the defective project that NEPA seeks to weed out, and for which the “no build” option is intended for. It has consistently flunked the litmus test for purpose and need — not to mention the litany of horrors it will inflict on a large portion of our community — yet MAG and ADOT continue to push for this project.

With the Gila River Indian Community declining to take the eastern alignment for at least the time being, MAG’s disingenuousness continues, but it is now sounding a little like the desperate sales rep scrambling to keep his big deal alive. It is time to end MAG’s scheming once and for all by driving a stake through the heart of this public sector abomination.

Ahwatukee residents do have a say in the outcome of this project. Although ADOT and MAG would have us believe otherwise, it is not a foregone conclusion. Your opinion and voice counts. Be prepared for a fight. Attend public meetings. Contribute financially to the legal cause. The bottom line: Take control of your community or bureaucrats within ADOT and MAG will.

William Ramsay

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