The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is hoping they have convinced the public that the South Mountain Freeway (SMF) is a “done deal.” While it is true that ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will soon be releasing a Record of Decision (ROD) concerning the SMF – and everyone expects it to say that the SMF will be built – this event marks the beginning of the real work for which Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children (PARC) has been preparing for years.
The ROD is the end of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). It marks the beginning, however, of the legal process that is permitted by law.
PARC has responded to the Draft EIS released in 2013 and the Final EIS released in 2014 with in-depth expert commentary identifying the unresolved issues brought to light during the EIS process. For the most part, ADOT has not resolved these issues. That means that PARC’s expert comments regarding the unresolved issues provide a basis – a very strong basis – for legal action against building the SMF.
With the release of the ROD, PARC anticipates filing an administrative appeal, once again citing the unresolved issues. With ADOT’s expected act of denying the appeal, all administrative avenues available for stopping the SMF will be exhausted, and PARC will finally be free to file a lawsuit against ADOT and the FHWA in federal court. The first action of the suit will be to request a temporary injunction against any building activity on the SMF.
PARC is poised to start the legal process that we expect will stop the SMF for good. Pessimists say that suing the government is a useless exercise, but they are wrong. A good body of case law exists on other freeways that have been stopped. In most of these cases, a freeway was stopped just because one important issue was not resolved. PARC has at least seven areas of issues with the SMF, and any one of them can stop this freeway! Putting all these issues together makes PARC’s chances of winning in court extremely good.
In future weeks, I will provide an in-depth discussion of each of these seven areas of issues, one at a time, to keep you – the residents of Ahwatukee – properly informed.
These areas of issues are:
• Distortion of purpose and need for the SMF.
• Air pollution.
• Negative health effects – especially for children.
• Destruction of wells.
• Danger from hazardous materials.
• Desecration of South Mountain.
• Destruction of quality of life (noise, crime facilitation, home values).
Meanwhile, with an administrative appeal to be prepared and a court case to be filed very soon, if you ever have considered stopping the SMF a worthy cause, now is the time to donate to PARC! Even small donations help because they add up to significant amounts. Larger donations, however, are also necessary for PARC to raise the kind of funds needed to get this court case started and to keep it going. PARC has already spent approximately $175,000 to prepare the responses to the Draft and Final EISs. It will take at least that much again to see this case through court. Surely, most Ahwatukee households can manage $100 right now. Small businesses are donating $500 to $1000. Please be as generous as you can.
• Dr. Pat Lawlis is president of PARC, a non-profit organization by and for the residents of Ahwatukee. Lawlis is a graduate of Arizona State University and has been a resident of Ahwatukee for over 20 years.