The Maricopa Association of Governments have presented a plan for the eight-lane freeway extension of the Loop 202 over the past few years. This plan consists of connecting Ahwatukee Foothills and Laveen together, which sits on opposite sides of the South Mountain. I have lived here in Ahwatukee since 1996 and I believe this town is one of the safest place to live in; some call Ahwatukee the biggest cul-de-sac in the world. This is an ideal place to have a family since it is surrounded with good neighborhoods, good schools, and not much traffic to cause pollution. I am very opposed to have this freeway built into this town because it will cause a disturbance in the community, cost too much into constructing it, and cuts the Gila River Indian Community in half.Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has been planning to build the South Mountain Freeway since the 1985 by slowly buying out the homes that are being foreclosed or those of having troubles paying the mortgage. Their plan is to stretch the freeway from Pecos Road to 51st Avenue. For the South Mountain Freeway to be built, they have to tear down a church and 250 to 695 homes all together in Ahwatukee and Laveen depending on whether it will be built above or under ground. Ahwatukee homeowners near the proposed route of the freeway are clueless of what is going to happen in the next few years because the state has not informed them of whether this plan is going to be in action. Some want to add improvements to their homes but it would be a waste of their time and money if the state is going to buy out the homes. As for future homeowners, it makes it very hard for them to decide to buy a home right now since the plan could go into affect next year or five years from now.
Ahwatukee is known for having great school in the community. Kyrene de los Lagos Elementary, Kyrene de la Estrella Elementary, Akimel A-al Middle school, and Desert Vista High school are in the 500-meter range of Pecos Road which will become a part of the proposed freeway. According to Ahwatukee.com, a recent study was presented by the Health Effects Institute, which is a nonprofit corporation based in Massachusetts focusing primarily on air pollution. The study revealed that areas most in danger of traffic-relation pollution are in the 500 meters range of the source of the pollution(Ahwatukee.com). There are two types of traffic pollution, one being the exhaust that comes from engines or the dust that flows with vehicles going at a high speed. Particle matter is categorized with size of the diameter, PM 10 being 10 micrometers or less in diameter and considered rough and large compared to smaller particles like PM 2.5 which can be undetectably inhaled. When a PM 10 is inhaled, humans are mechanized to cough and expel the particle because they are large enough to be detected at the throat, however, PM 2.5 will be go into the lungs unnoticed and enter the bloodstream and accumulate deep in the tissue. “The deadliest form of pollution is particle pollution,” said Stacey Mortenson, executive director of the Arizona Lung Association. “The smaller particulate matter is 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair”(Mortenson). For a parent, they would not like to have their elementary children to be inhaling exhaust from the trucks that are passing through every time they walk to school or have recess in the playground. Children are especially vulnerable to respiratory problems or asthma because of their rapid breathing during physical activities due to their higher metabolism.
Another trait that Ahwatukee residents are opposed to is the noise that the freeway will bring into the community. Ahwatukee is a very quiet and peaceful area and the town goes to sleep after it hits 10 o'clock. There are not many cars driving on the street, no police sirens, just complete silence with maybe a herd of coyotes howling in the background. If the South Mountain Freeway is constructed, the noise will keep the people of Ahwatukee awake through the night. ADOT estimated that 190,000 vehicles are going to be passing through this freeway daily with its 8-lane flowing traffic. The plan according to the ADOT states that a noise baring wall will be built for the homes that are near by to reduce the sound but compared to the serene silence, a wall will simply not do when there are giant semi-trucks honking its way through.
With all the ruckus that the freeway will bring to the residents of Ahwatukee, it will take billions of dollars to build this extraneous freeway. When the plan was first brought up, it was priced just under $1 billion. However, as closer it got to building it, it went up to $1.1 billion by 2003, and finally estimated at $2.4 billion as of now. Through the Proposition 400 that was approved back in 2004, Maricopa County raised its sales tax by a half-cent to fund this freeway which is still in effect until 2031, or however long it takes to pay its debt. That means we, the people of Arizona, are paying for this #1 overpriced freeway in America for $250,000 a foot of this 21 mile distance. That should make people think, is this really worth it? When the economy is in such a bad shape, shouldn't we be using our money to something more productive like fixing the school system or providing more jobs or helping out the homeless? Why should we use this money that we do not have to something that we do not necessarily need? That is the question.
With all this money talk, it brings up the thought of why the Maricopa County so eager to build this money guzzling freeway. The Councilman behind this is Sal Diciccio who has been under a suspicious eye in the public for having a bias towards this situation. He is very enthusiastic to build the freeway at first, and then opposes just to pretend to have a unified voice with the public, and then switches his mind to come up with an alternate route to make this freeway possible. He claims to have been an Ahwatukee resident for 23 years so he should feel the same way about homes being torn down and the pollution that will bring to the town. However, what the most public does not know is that he owns a company which holds the lease on two 750acre parcels on the Gila River Indian Reservation that is located right by where the freeway is going to be built (Phoenixnewtimes.com). If the freeway were to be extended like he is planning to, then his company's value is most likely to be enhanced. He has not mentioned any financial interest in building this freeway in public interviews, but with the freeway being extended his company would benefit as the now empty community will be ripe for development.
With Councilman DiCiccio trying to build the freeway for personal gain, the freeway would be splitting the Gila River Indian Reservation's community in half. District 6 and District 7 will specifically be affected by being cut in half. Also it will bring environmental and health hazards with the 8-lane freeway but most importantly, the construction of the freeway will tear down the ridges of the South Mountain that is considered sacred to the Gila River Indians. O'odham and Pi'Posh Indians indigenous there and rely on the ecology from the South Mountain for their medical remedies. The Maricopa Association of Government(MAG) is simply ignoring what they want by building the freeway and destroying the mountain. This mountain ridge is sacred and cannot be duplicated, so why is ADOT and MAG trying to ruin that? We should respect the Indian Reservation and leave their land alone.
Instead of building the South Mountain Freeway or the extension of the loop 202, there are several options that Maricopa County could do. One of the reason they wanted to build the South Mountain Freeway was because the I-10 is always clogged and it takes a very long time to get through the traffic during rush hour. As an alternative, they could add another lane or two to the I-10. Traffic should move smoothly than before.
I am not saying that Ahwatukee is perfect but its close to it. It's an ideal location to live or raise a family with safe neighborhoods and schools nearby. The scenery is great with the South Mountain looking down on the communities with its red lights glowing from their antennas. The air is fairly clear since it is away from all the interstate freeways with Pecos Road going alongside a plain of just dirt and bushes here and there. There is no need to be extending the Loop 202 across Ahwatukee to Laveen with all the burden of demolishing homes, polluting the air, tearing down a mountain, and disrespecting the Gila River Indian Community's land.
Creno, Catheryn. "184 Homes in South Mountain Freeway Path, Planners Say." Arizona Local News - Phoenix Arizona News - Phoenix Breaking News - Azcentral.com. 30 Mar. 2010. Web. 10 Mar. 2011. <http://www.azcentral.com/community/ahwatukee/articles/2010/03/30/20100330south- mountain-freeway-homes.html>.
Fenske, Sarah. "Sal DiCiccio's Loop 202 Problem: Phoenix Councilman Would Benefit from Reviled Ahwatukee Freeway Extension - Page 1 - News - Phoenix - Phoenix New Times." Phoenix Newtimes. 15 Oct. 2009. Web. 10 Mar. 2011. <http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2009-10-15/news/sal-diciccio-s-loop-202-problem- phoenix-councilman-would-benefit-from-reviled-ahwatukee-freeway-extension/>.
Jones, Dustin. "Ahwatukee Residents See Ray Of Hope For South Mtn Freeway Alignment | AZNOW.BIZ." AZNOW.BIZ. 10 Dec. 2010. Web. 10 Mar. 2011. <http://aznow.biz/blogs/another-step-closer-to-choosing-south-mtn-freeway- alignment>.
"Loop 202 (South Mountain Freeway)." Arizona Department of Transportation. Web. 10 Mar. 2011. <http://www.azdot.gov/Highways/Valley_Freeways/Loop_202/South_Mountain/index.asp>.