Phoenix Metro Area Projects

Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the status of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released the Final Environmental Impact Statement, or “Final EIS,” on September 26, 2014 for a 60-day public review period— twice the duration federal regulations require.

In April 2013, the Draft EIS was released for a 90-day review and comment period. ADOT, FHWA, and the study team reviewed over 8,000 comments submitted by the public, stakeholders, and agencies during that 90-day period. All comments were considered and addressed in the Final EIS, regardless of how they were submitted. The Final EIS formally documents the analysis of potential impacts associated with the preferred alternative, other action alternatives and the No-Action alternative, and proposes mitigation for all the action alternatives. The Final EIS also incorporates changes based on comments received and updated analysis based on new socioeconomic and traffic projections.

Where can I obtain a copy of or view the Final EIS?

During this 60-day public review period, the document is available by download from this website and at the locations listed below:

  • Phoenix Public Library – Cesar Chavez; 3635 W. Baseline Road, Laveen; 602.262.4636
  • Phoenix Public Library – Desert Sage; 7602 W. Encanto Blvd., Phoenix; 602.262.4636
  • Phoenix Public Library – Ironwood; 4333 E. Chandler Blvd., Phoenix; 602.262.4636
  • Phoenix Public Library – Burton Barr; 1221 N. Central Ave., Phoenix; 602.262.4636
  • Chandler Sunset Library; 4930 W. Ray Road, Chandler; 480.782.2800
  • Sam Garcia Western Avenue Library; 495 E. Western Ave., Avondale; 623.333.2565
  • Tolleson West Public Library; 9555 W. Van Buren St., Tolleson; 623.936.2746
  • Tempe Public Library; 3500 S. Rural Road, Tempe; 480.350.5500
  • ADOT Environmental Planning Group; 1611 W. Jackson St., Phoenix; 602.712.7767 (call for appointment)
  • Gila River Indian Community District 1 Service Center; 15747 N Shegoi Rd., Coolidge; 520.215.2110
  • Gila River Indian Community District 2 Service Center; 9239 W Sacaton Flats Rd., Sacaton; 520.562.3450/ 520.562.3358/ 520.562.1807
  • Gila River Indian Community District 3 Service Center; 31 N Church St., Sacaton; 520.562.2700
  • Gila River Indian Community District 4 Service Center; 1510 W Santan St., Sacaton; 520.418.3661/ 520.418.3228
  • Gila River Indian Community District 5 Service Center; 3456 W Casa Blanca Rd., Bapchule; 520.315.3441/ 520.315.3445
  • Gila River Indian Community District 6 Service Center; 5230 W St. Johns Rd., Laveen; 520.550.3805/ 520.550.3806/ 520.550.3557
  • Gila River Indian Community District 7 Service Center; 8201 W Baseline Rd., Laveen; 520.430.4780
  • Gila River Indian Community – Ira Hayes Library; 94 N Church St., Sacaton; 520.562.3225
  • Gila River Indian Community Communications & Public Affairs Office; 525 W Gu U Ki Rd., Sacaton; 520.562.9851

Where in the Final EIS can I find a response to my comment on the Draft EIS?

Responses to public and agency comments on the Draft EIS are provided in Volume III of the Final EIS.

What if after reviewing the Final EIS, I feel my comment was not adequately addressed?

Any new comments received during the 60-day Final EIS review period will be addressed in the “Record of Decision,” the final decision-making document prepared by the Federal Highway Administration. For more information, email projects@azdot.gov, phone 602.712.7006, or write to ADOT Community Relations, 1655 W. Jackson St., MD126F, Phoenix, AZ 85007.

What are the next steps?

New comments received during the 60-day Final EIS review period will be addressed in the “Record of Decision,” which is expected to be released in early 2015. This document will outline the final decision, mitigation measures and schedule of construction.

What is the status of the unsolicited proposal received by ADOT to build this freeway through a public-private partnership?

If approved, funding to begin construction of the South Mountain Freeway is available as soon as 2015, according to the state’s Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program. ADOT has determined that pursuant to the unsolicited proposal submitted to construct the freeway, construction will follow a public-private partnership helping to speed construction and reduce overall cost of the project. The freeway would not be tolled under any public-private partnership proposal, but would include a private group involved with design, construction and maintenance of the 22-mile-long freeway.

How were comments submitted on the Draft EIS?

Public comments are a vital component in the decision-making process and one of the many criteria used in evaluating alternatives. The public was encouraged to review the Draft EIS, participate in the public hearing and provide comments on the Draft EIS. Comments were submitted via the following methods:

  • Mail: Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway Study
    Arizona Department of Transportation
    1655 West Jackson Street, MD 126F
    Phoenix, Arizona 85007
  • Online: azdot.gov/SouthMountainFreeway
  • At the public hearing:
    Tuesday, May 21, 2013 from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
    Phoenix Convention Center, North Ballroom
    100 North 3rd Street,
    Phoenix, Arizona 85004

Three-minute verbal comments would be made at the Public Hearing. Court reporters werealso available to take individual verbal comments; comments provided to a court reporter were not subject to the three-minute limit. Comment forms were available for written comments.

  • Phone: 602.712.7006

All comment methods were considered equal.

After the public hearing, community forums were held at various locations in the Study Area to allow for additional opportunity to provide Draft EIS comments. Times and locations of the forums were posted on this website and published in newspapers and local publications.

All public comments received during the 90-day public review period for the Draft EIS  were considered and included in the Final EIS and the project's administrative record.

Where can I obtain a copy of or view the Draft EIS?

The Draft EIS is available by download from this website.

Will there be a public vote on the proposed freeway?

No public vote will be held as part of the Final EIS review process. The public is encouraged to review the Final EIS during the 60-day review period. 

The proposed Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway has been a critical part of the Maricopa Association of Governments’ (MAG) Regional Freeway Program since it was first included in funding approved by Maricopa County voters in 1985. It was also part of the Regional Transportation Plan funding passed by Maricopa County voters in 2004 through Proposition 400.

Where will the freeway be located if the preferred alternative is selected?

The preferred route for this freeway corridor runs east and west along Pecos Road and then north and south between 55th and 63rd avenues, connecting with Interstate 10 on each end.

When would the freeway be built?

If approved, funding to begin construction of the South Mountain Freeway is available as soon as 2015, according to the state’s Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program

Once an alignment is decided, will we still have an opportunity to provide input?

This study, which began in July 2001, is expected to be completed in early 2015. During the study process, community members have had and will continue to have various opportunities to ask questions, express opinions and provide comments about the proposed action.

The Final EIS will be available starting September 26, 2014 for a 60-day public review period. New comments received during the 60-day Final EIS review period will be addressed in the “Record of Decision,” the final decision document. The Draft EIS had a 90-day comment period — twice the duration that federal regulations require. During this 90-day comment period, ADOT and FHWA conducted a public outreach process that included an awareness campaign, one public hearing, six community forums, an online public hearing website, Citizens Advisory Team meetings, and presentations to stakeholder organizations. Over 3,000 individuals participated in this process and provided valuable input.

What if I own property in an alignment?

New right-of-way maps are available; please check those carefully. Determination of the final right-of-way to be acquired would be made during the design phase and would involve coordination with local and regional governments if an action alternative were to become the Selected Alternative. If you have any concerns about a specific property related to the proposed South Mountain Freeway, you can contact the ADOT Right-of-Way Group at 602.712.7316.

Who makes the final decision?

The final decision on the freeway alignment is a cooperative effort, involving ADOT, FHWA and MAG. As a corridor that is part of a comprehensive regional plan developed by MAG, ADOT serves as the agency responsible for implementation of the plan, with FHWA providing the federal oversight required to access federal funds. FHWA is the lead federal agency responsible for implementing the requirements of NEPA, the governing federal law, and is responsible for the ultimate decision regarding the proposed action.

What does the outcome of the Gila River Indian Community’s vote mean for the South Mountain Freeway study? Will an alignment on the Gila River Indian Community be considered?

The Gila River Indian Community’s (GRIC or Community) vote on February 7, 2012 represents an important milestone for the South Mountain Freeway Study.

At the request of the Gila River Indian Community in January 2010, the Arizona Department of Transportation and Maricopa Association of Governments worked together to identify a potential freeway alignment on Community land. The alignment followed a route consistent with the Community’s 1998 Gila Borderlands Regional Planning Study. When no “fatal flaws” were identified, in late 2011 the Community Council passed a resolution to hold a Community-wide referendum on the freeway. The referendum asked members whether they supported an on-Community alignment, supported an off-Community alignment, or whether they supported a “no-build” alternative.

The GRIC election on February 7, 2012 preferred the “no-build” option for construction of the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway. This means, moving forward, an alignment of the South Mountain Freeway cannot be located on the Gila River Indian Community. The Pecos Road Alternative will be carried forward in the Final EIS, as well as the consideration of a No-Build Alternative.  The Community’s position regarding “no-build” will be considered as part of the Final EIS.

As the process moves forward, ADOT and MAG will continue to coordinate with the Community on remaining concerns and potential methods for mitigating those concerns.

Why not do what was done with the Loop 101 in Scottsdale: pay the Gila River Indian Community for the land and place the freeway there?

ADOT, FHWA and MAG continue to discuss a range of transportation-related topics with the Community. Ultimately, it is up to the Community, as a sovereign nation, to decide whether they will allow an alignment on its land. In late 2011, the Gila River Indian Community passed a resolution to hold a Community-wide referendum on whether to allow a potential freeway alignment on Community land. In February 2012, a vote by the community favored a "no-build" option for construction of the Loop 202 (South Mountain Freeway). The vote by the Community essentially leaves only two options: an alignment along Pecos Road or the no-build alternative. The Community position will be considered as part of the Final EIS.

Since the vote in February 2012, landowners within the Community began pursuing their own referendum for an alignment within the Community. Questions regarding those efforts should be directed to the Community. ADOT and FHWA will continue to seek input from the public, agencies, and jurisdictions regarding the proposed action through the EIS process and, if an action alternative were to be selected in the Record of Decision, through the design phase and construction.

How is public input used?

Public comments are a vital component in the decision-making process. Public comment has been solicited from project inception and through key milestones in the EIS process. The interests and needs of the public, along with all other social, economic, and environmental issues and impacts, must be fully analyzed and included in the Draft and Final EIS. Comments made during development of the Draft EIS have been used to adjust plans, explore new questions, or make changes—all within the scope of NEPA. Public comments received on the Draft EIS were reviewed and addressed in the Final EIS document. Public comments received on the Final EIS will also be considered and addressed as appropriate in the Record of Decision.

More information about the entire public involvement process up to publication of the Final EIS is available in Chapter 6, Comments and Coordination, of the Final EIS.

Will there be a public hearing on the Final EIS?

No public hearing will be held on the Final EIS, in compliance with federal guidelines. A 60-day public  review period is provided for the Final EIS.

For more information regarding previous meetings, please visit this page.

Why was the 55th Avenue Alternative moved to 59th Avenue?

Responding to budget shortfalls created by declining revenue from the Prop 400 sales tax, MAG began to study methods to reduce freeway costs. There was also public concern about the number of potential residential and business acquisitions. From this analysis, two key changes were made:

  • Reduction of the proposed freeway to eight lanes from ten, which would allow the needed right-of-way to be reduced
  • Shifted the alignment to connect with I-10 at 59th Avenue

Why is ADOT conducting a second environmental study?

Much has changed in this area since the 1988 State-level Environmental Assessment was completed. The Draft and Final EIS have been prepared in light of new development in the area, changes in design standards and environmental regulations, and changes in procedures needed to be followed to qualify for federal funding (which this project intends to seek).

Has a decision been made on the purpose and need for a freeway?

Yes, based on projections of population and employment growth in the region, projected increases in vehicle miles traveled, and projections of where new residences and businesses will be built, the study team determined that there is a need for an a connection between I-10 (Maricopa Freeway) in the southeastern region and I-10 (Papago Freeway) in the western region.

In 2010, the region’s freeways were congested and operated poorly, but conditions in 2035 would be substantially worse than the limited areas of stop-and-go driving experienced in 2010. By 2035, eastbound and westbound motorists on I-10 between Loop 101 (Agua Fria Freeway) and Loop 202 (Santan Freeway) will experience stop-and-go driving for at least 3 hours every day.

The study team concluded that without a major transportation facility in the Study Area, the region will suffer even greater congestion and travel delays than experienced today, and will have limited options for moving people and goods safely through the Phoenix metropolitan region.

If the E1 Alternative (the Preferred Alternative in the Eastern Section that largely follows the Pecos Road alignment) is not a foregone conclusion, then why has ADOT purchased right-of-way along that alignment?

ADOT purchased some right-of-way in the corridor along Pecos Road when it was adopted as the alignment in 1988. Currently, ADOT is acquiring right-of-way to preserve the viability of the corridor and to minimize future relocation of homes and businesses as part of the agency’s long-range planning efforts. Should another alternative be adopted as a result of this study, ADOT can dispose of the land that has been acquired but is no longer needed.

What factors were considered in designating a Preferred Alternative?

Upon confirming the purpose and need for the proposed freeway, a multidisciplinary process was undertaken to identify a range of reasonable alternatives to be studied in detail in the Draft and Final EIS. The process involved identifying, comparatively screening, and eliminating alternatives based on:

  • input from the public
  • a comparison of modal choices
  • a multidisciplinary set of criteria evenly applied
  • the historical context of the proposed action
  • projected conditions with and without the alternatives being considered

The identification of the W59 Alternative and E1 Alternative as the Preferred Alternatives, was based on a balanced consideration of overall transportation needs; consistency with regional and long-range planning goals; environmental, economic, and societal impacts; operational differences; estimated costs; and regional support and public input.

What about truck traffic that might be generated by a new highway?

One of the factors considered in this study was (1) the amount of truck traffic that would be generated if an action alternative were to become the Selected Alternative and (2) its potential impact on the surrounding community. The MAG regional travel demand model forecasts approximately 10 percent truck traffic on an implemented South Mountain Freeway in 2035. The forecast truck traffic is based on existing traffic studies and projected socioeconomic data. This percentage is similar to current traffic conditions on I-10 between Loop 101 and I-17 and on US 60.

Will anything other than a freeway be considered?

Nonfreeway alternatives were considered. Among other things, the study took into account improving existing freeways, improving or expanding other travel modes, strategies to reduce travel demand (including local land use controls), and various roadway configurations. This study examined not only the potential impacts from improvements, but also the consequences of building nothing. As proposed by MAG, the South Mountain Freeway would be part of the Regional Freeway and Highway System—a multimodal approach to improve traffic in the Valley as part of the Regional Transportation Plan. Other transportation improvements like mass transit and local roads are specified in the Regional Transportation Plan and were considered during the evaluation of this proposed new freeway.

Is it possible that nothing will be built?

Yes, that was one of the options studied. It is important to recognize, however, that impacts can occur through choosing to do nothing. A No-Action Alternative was thoroughly evaluated in the Draft and Final EIS. Until the ROD is issued, and if it were to have an action alternative as the Selected Alternative, a No-Action Alternatives is still a possibility. Selection of the No-Action Alternative would not preclude proposal of a project similar to the proposed freeway in the future.

How long will this study take to complete?

The study began in July 2001. Traditionally, this type of study takes 5–7 years to complete. However, the duration of the EIS process will ultimately be determined by issues and impacts that are discovered during the course of the study. Based on current progress, ADOT anticipates that a final decision will be reached by early 2015.

Where would the corridor join I-10 to the west of Phoenix

ADOT and FHWA have identified the 59th Avenue interchange with I‑10 (the W59 Alternative) as the Preferred Alternative for the Study Area’s Western Section. This is an adjustment from an earlier decision identifying 55th Avenue (the W55 Alternative) as the Western Section preliminary preferred alternative.

Is it likely that construction of a new road or freeway would require the acquisition of existing homes or businesses?

It is likely that the proposed South Mountain Freeway would include the need to acquire a number of existing homes and/or businesses. One purpose of the EIS process is to determine the extent of new right-of-way that would be needed for each reasonable alternative. ADOT continues to work with all Valley municipalities to protect possible freeway alignments as part of a commitment to measured growth. With changes to the Regional Transportation Plan, ADOT already owns more than 80 percent of the needed right-of-way along Pecos Road, should the E1 Alternative become the Selected Alternative for the Eastern Section. According to the Draft and Final EIS, implementation of the W59 Alternative would mean potential displacement of 41 businesses and 733 residences. Implementation of the E1 Alternative would mean potential displacement of 138 residences.

Isn’t the real purpose of a South Mountain Freeway simply to act as a bypass to divert trucks from downtown Phoenix?

The primary purpose of the proposed freeway is not to create a "truck bypass" for downtown Phoenix. The proposed freeway is part of a transportation system developed to improve mobility in the region by increasing capacity and providing alternatives to allow traffic—including truck traffic—to bypass already congested routes. Like other “loop” freeways in the Phoenix metropolitan area, the proposed South Mountain Freeway would be a commuter corridor, helping to move local traffic between the eastern and western portions of Maricopa County.

Commercial trucks would use the proposed freeway. As with all other freeways in the MAG region, trucks would use it for the through‑transport of freight, for transport to and from distribution centers, and for transport to support local commerce. And as with travel on all other freeways in the MAG region, the primary users of the proposed action would be automobiles.

How is an Environmental Impact Statement different from the Environmental Assessment that was conducted in 1988?

The 1988 State-level Environmental Assessment (EA) was prepared to satisfy State requirements only. To make any resulting project eligible for federal funding, the current study has to satisfy federal requirements and comply with NEPA. Under this Act, an EIS was required because the proposed project has the potential of creating significant impacts on the environment and surrounding communities. In this case, an EIS differs from an EA in that it must address in detail a number of reasonable alternatives for meeting the transportation needs in the corridor.

Will the current study be influenced by the 1988 Environmental Assessment?

The EIS process underway—and the Final EIS—neither supplements nor updates the 1988 State-level Environmental Assessment. The current EIS process is an entirely separate study and does not depend on data collected in 1988. The 1988 Environmental Assessment was prepared to satisfy State requirements only. To make any resulting project eligible for federal funding (which this project intends to seek), the current study must satisfy federal requirements and comply with NEPA.

The future is light rail so why would ADOT even consider building another freeway, which will only add to our congestion and air pollution problems?

The study has considered a variety of transportation modes and alternatives, travel reduction strategies, improving existing roads, and taking no action. Alternatives considered included previous freeway proposals as well as transportation system management/transportation demand management, transit (e.g., commuter rail, light rail, expanded bus services), arterial street network improvements, land use controls, new freeways, and a No-Action Alternative. The freeway option was determined to best meet purpose and need for the proposed action following a screening process. In addition, a freeway would result in additional benefits, including those related to system linkage, regional mobility, and consistency with regional and local long-range plans.

If ADOT builds a freeway, will it be built wide enough so it doesn’t have to be torn up and rebuilt in a few years?

The South Mountain Freeway would be constructed as an eight-lane freeway (three general purpose lanes and one HOV lane in each direction). This change from the original 10-lane planning concept would still meet the transportation needs outlined in the proposed project’s purpose and need criteria, but would reduce costs at a time when revenues have dropped significantly.

What can we do to get Pecos Road taken off the board?

A Pecos Road alignment for a portion of the proposed South Mountain Freeway was identified in a State-level Environmental Assessment completed in 1988, and that alignment was adopted by the State Transportation Board.

The E1 Alternative, as known as the Pecos Road alignment, is the only action alternative developed for the Eastern Section. Therefore, ADOT, with concurrence from FHWA, identified the E1 Alternative as its Preferred Alternative in the Eastern Section. The identification—while not a final determination, and one that can be changed—was based on the data and conclusions presented throughout the Draft and Final EIS. The identification of the E1 Alternative as the Preferred Alternative, in summary, rests on a balanced consideration of overall transportation needs; consistency with regional and long-range planning goals; environmental, economic, and societal impacts; operational differences; estimated costs; and regional support and public inputs.

If new alternatives are presented for ADOT/FHWA consideration prior to the issuance of a ROD, the agencies will determine whether those alternatives are reasonable and should be considered in the EIS process.

If it won’t help traffic congestion (in Ahwatukee) why consider building a freeway?

When ADOT determines whether a freeway should be built, the agency must consider numerous factors, including local and regional transportation needs, project costs, and environmental considerations. Decisions regarding freeway projects are based on the transportation needs of the entire Phoenix metropolitan area as part of a comprehensive, multimodal, regional approach to transportation solutions. Furthermore, the proposed South Mountain Freeway was proposed as part of a regional plan (the RTP), which is developed collaboratively by citizens and leaders from across the MAG region.

Were other viable alternatives in Ahwatukee, other than the Pecos Road alignment, being considered?

Other alternatives were considered during the alternatives analysis phase of the study, but were eliminated from consideration because of their substantial impacts or their inability to satisfy the purpose and need of the proposed action; these alternatives were located north of Pecos Road. In the first tier of the screening and alternatives development process, three Chandler Boulevard alternatives were evaluated. In the second tier of the screening and alternatives development process, the sole surviving Chandler Boulevard alternative was eliminated from further evaluation because of:

  • substantial impacts on existing residences, including hundreds of residential displacements
  • substantial disruption to community character and cohesion, splitting Ahwatukee Foothills Village
  • impacts on commercial frontage along Chandler Boulevard and developments
  • loss of road network capacity by unplanned loss of portions of Chandler Boulevard and Ray Road

Does the study evaluate potential increases in crime that might result from having a freeway built through our community?

In response to an inquiry , a member of the City of Phoenix Police Department staff met with the South Mountain Citizens Advisory Team to address this issue. The police officer provided the following information:

  • Crime changes are influenced by a wide variety of factors and it would be difficult to determine whether a new freeway had any effect.
  • Based on experience, there did not appear to be any correlation between crime rates and freeways.
  • The City of Phoenix Police Department does not have any statistics specific to crime adjacent to freeways.
  • Crime suspects who use freeways to get away are typically the easiest to catch.
  • Crime seems to be more related to what is built adjacent to freeways.

Would the potential freeway be built below existing ground?

The study team analyzed the belowground option with a smaller freeway configuration (eight lanes), with the results of this analysis included in the Draft and Final EIS. The team concluded that the change to a smaller configuration does not change the overall conclusions from the original analysis. That analysis indicated that, in an effort to reduce impacts by depressing the freeway in the Eastern Section, ADOT would:

  • need to spend an additional $400 million for construction and right-of-way
  • displace an additional 300 residences
  • maintain additional pump stations and detention basins for the life of the freeway
  • would still have noise-related impacts requiring mitigation (i.e., noise barriers and their associated costs and visual impacts)

Because the belowground option would result in substantially greater costs and residential displacements, this option was previously eliminated from further study. Freeways in the region all have above- and belowground segments, as is proposed with this corridor.

Where would the interchanges be located?

Potential traffic interchange locations are being considered at approximately 1‑mile intervals, at major street crossings. ADOT has been working with local communities and jurisdictions regarding potential locations. The following locations are proposed in the Final EIS:

Western Section
Van Buren Street
Buckeye Road
Lower Buckeye Road
Broadway Road
Southern Avenue
Baseline Road
Dobbins Road
Elliot Road

Eastern Section
51st Avenue
17th Avenue
Desert Foothills Parkway
24th Street
40th Street

The locations are not final. ADOT will continue to coordinate with the affected jurisdictions regarding the proposed interchanges.

Will the City of Phoenix be able to influence the study?

The City of Phoenix represents the citizenry of a major portion of the Study Area and is an active participant in the EIS process, as are the other municipalities and regional planning organizations in this area. As a member agency of MAG, the City will have an opportunity to grant funding/approval should the project advance.

Would the high water table near the Salt River preclude construction of a depressed freeway?

Yes. Analysis reported in the Draft and Final EIS states that in the north central portion of the Western Section, near the Salt River, the depth-to-groundwater level ranges from 35 to 50 feet below ground surface. Such depths would definitely affect any decision to construct extensive lengths of depressed freeway. Other water-related factors that negatively influenced consideration of depressed freeways in this portion of the Study Area included linear features such as floodwater conveyance channels or irrigation district conveyance canals and ditches.

Would this freeway be part of the planned CANAMEX highway?

No. In the Maricopa County area, the CANAMEX Corridor is to follow I‑10 from Tucson to I‑8 near Casa Grande, I‑8 west to SR 85 near Gila Bend, SR 85 north to I‑10 northwest of Buckeye, I‑10 west to Wickenburg Road, Wickenburg Road to Vulture Mine Road west of Wickenburg, and then connect with the planned US 93/US 60 Wickenburg Bypass. The CANAMEX Corridor’s proposed routing avoids any congestion associated with the Phoenix metropolitan area.

How would the existing Santan/Interstate 10 Interchange connect to the west?

The E1 Alternative would connect to the existing I-10 (Maricopa Freeway)/Loop 202 (Santan Freeway)/Pecos Road system traffic interchange. The E1 Alternative would replace the Pecos Road connection. The system traffic interchange was constructed in 2000–2002 to accommodate the western leg of the Loop 202—the proposed freeway.

Will anything be built through South Mountain Park/Preserve?

Federal restrictions prohibit intrusion of a federal project such as the proposed freeway into a park like South Mountain Park/Preserve, unless it can be shown that there is no feasible and prudent alternative to avoid such an intrusion. As documented in the and Final EIS, the study team has not identified any feasible and prudent alternative(s) to avoid impacts on the park. Approximately 1 mile of the proposed freeway would pass through a remote, southwestern edge of the park. The amount of land in the park that would be affected by the freeway is 31.3 acres. This represents less than 0.2 percent of the entire park. ADOT is working closely with park stakeholders to minimize impacts and address various concerns.

Can the Pecos Road corridor be changed?

The E1 Alternative, also known as the Pecos Road alignment, is the only action alternative developed for the Eastern Section. Therefore, ADOT, with concurrence from FHWA, identified the E1 Alternative as its Preferred Alternative in the Eastern Section. The identification—while not a final determination, was based on the data and conclusions presented throughout the Final EIS. The identification of the E1 Alternative as the Preferred Alternative, in summary, rests on a balanced consideration of overall transportation needs; consistency with regional and long-range planning goals; environmental, economic, and societal impacts; operational differences; estimated costs; and regional support and public inputs.

If new alternatives are presented for ADOT/FHWA consideration prior to the issuance of a ROD, the agencies will determine whether those alternatives are reasonable and should be considered in the EIS process.

What are the other alternatives?

Through the study’s public involvement efforts in the EIS process, over 30 alternative freeway routes were initially proposed. The study team evaluated the suitability of each of these alternatives in meeting the project’s purpose and need criteria. The screening of these action alternatives resulted in three alternatives (W59, W71, and W101) identified in the Western Section of the Study Area and one (E1) in the Eastern Section of the Study Area. Along with a No-Action Alternative, these alternatives, with variations, are described and analyzed in detail in the Draft and Final EIS.

Will storm water runoff be controlled? Where will the water go?

If the Preferred Alternative identified in the Final EIS were to become the Selected Alternative, they would be designed to control stormwater runoff and prevent flooding. The rates of discharge would not be greater than existing rates of discharge. Runoff from the completed freeway would be directed to existing and new drainage facilities. Existing drainage facilities with inadequate capacity would be improved to handle increased runoff flows. New runoff detention facilities might be required in some locations to limit the maximum rate of runoff released to existing drainage facilities.

In the Western Section, these drainage facilities ultimately discharge to the Salt River. The drainage design features of the E1 Alternative would be such that drainage patterns from the South Mountains toward the Gila River would not be altered. Currently, drainage flows generally from the north to the south, passing under Pecos Road through a series of culverts following natural drainages/washes. The E1 Alternative would include small drainage basins and channels on the northern side of the freeway to treat the water quality and meter and direct drainage flows under the freeway and onto the Gila River Indian Community land in the same manner as they are currently.

Will there be access to the Gila River Indian Community from the traffic interchanges in the Eastern Section?

Federal law obligates ADOT and FHWA to allow access to the proposed freeway from the Community. Traffic interchanges would provide the Gila River Indian Community access to the freeway. Connection from the Community to the planned E1 Alternative service traffic interchanges that are bordered by Community land would be the responsibility of the Community, in coordination with appropriate jurisdictions.

If we can look forward to a level of service "F" in the future, what level of service do we have now?

Current level of service (LOS) varies according to the time of day. Level of service "F" is currently experienced on some freeways during morning and evening rush hours. Traffic projections show, however, that without improvements to the Regional Freeway and Highway System, this condition is likely to occur more often and have longer duration in the future

What is pass-through traffic?

Traffic that neither starts nor ends in the Valley is referred to as “pass-through.” An example is I-10 traffic that originates in Los Angeles and passes through the Phoenix area, without stopping, on the way to El Paso.

Has anyone looked at Riggs Road as a truck bypass?

During initiation of the EIS process, ADOT approached the Community Natural Resources Standing Committee with a request to study alternatives on Community land as far south as Riggs Road, a possible route often-suggested by the public. Expansion of 51st Avenue, Beltline Road, and Riggs Road within Community boundaries would require approval of the Community. Such approval has not been granted.
Nearly two-thirds of any alternative using Riggs Road would be on Community land. While the Riggs Road Alternative would serve some mobility needs, particularly of those living in the Maricopa area, meeting this travel demand would not address any specifically identified planning goals for an integrated regional transportation network. The Regional Transportation Plan identifies the proposed freeway as a critical link in the Regional Freeway and Highway System, both in terms of completing the system and in optimizing overall system performance as well as that of specific existing links such as Loop  202 (Santan Freeway). The Riggs Road Alternative would not complete the Loop 202 system, thereby causing substantial out-of-direction travel for motorists. This alternative would not meet the proposed action’s purpose and need and was eliminated from further consideration.

Trucking destinations in the Phoenix metropolitan area (either distribution centers or for local commerce) would require trucks to enter congested areas. Choosing to travel on the proposed freeway versus I-10 would not translate to any substantial travel time benefits. A representative of the trucking industry confirmed that “true” through‑truck traffic (not having to stop in the metropolitan area) would continue to use the faster, designated, and posted bypass system of I-8 and SR 85.

What kind of freeway design would be needed for the Pecos Road alignment?

Traffic studies show that a freeway, similar to the Pima Freeway or Red Mountain Freeway would be needed on the Pecos Road alignment. Specific details and potential impacts are presented in the Draft and Final EIS. The freeway would contain three 12-foot-wide general purpose lanes and one HOV lane in each direction, separated by a median barrier with shoulders adjacent.

Have you determined how many vehicles would be likely to use the highway?

The study team’s analysis estimated that 120,000 to 175,000 vehicles per day would use the South Mountain Freeway each day in 2035.

Will trucks carrying hazardous cargo be allowed to use the highway?

Arizona highways, as are most highways across the United States, are open to all kinds of traffic, so long as the cargo being carried is in accordance with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations for the specific type of cargo. The Arizona Department of Transportation has a few locations in the state with hazardous cargo restrictions, but these restrictions are based on emergency response issues or roadway design limitations specific to that location. For example, the Interstate 10 Deck Park Tunnel has certain hazardous cargo transport restrictions because of the limited ability for emergency responders to address a hazardous materials incident in the tunnel. The South Mountain Freeway, if implemented, is expected to operate under the same rules as other similar facilities in the state; transport of hazardous cargo would be expected to be permissible.

What impact would a freeway have on the area’s air quality?

The carbon monoxide and particulate matter (PM10) analyses demonstrated that the proposed freeway would not contribute to any new localized violations, increase the frequency or severity of any existing violation, or delay timely attainment of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards or any required interim emissions reductions or other milestones.

Since ozone is a regional pollutant, there is no requirement to analyze potential impacts and no possibility of localized violations of ozone to occur at the project level. The Maricopa Association of Governments is responsible for developing plans to reduce emissions of ozone precursors in the Maricopa area. The Preferred Alternative is included in the Regional Transportation Plan that has been determined by the U.S. Department of Transportation to conform to the State Implementation Plan on February 12, 2014.

The emission modeling developed for the proposed freeway  showed that for the mobile source air toxics study area, there would be little difference in total annual emissions of mobile source air toxics emissions between the Preferred and No Action Alternatives (less than a 1 percent difference) in 2025 and 2035. The Final EIS discusses the air quality analyses in greater detail.

How do you know what the air quality impact will be before the freeway is built?

Air quality impacts were estimated through sophisticated computer modeling based on predictions of the amount and nature of traffic under worst-case scenarios. The emissions models are based on extensive emissions testing that the U.S. EPA has conducted on thousands of vehicles representative of the ages and models of the vehicle fleet on the roads today. MAG provided regional air quality analysis. To the extent that individual pollutants can be modeled for project-specific impacts, ADOT conducted such analyses. These are reported in the Final EIS. ADOT also conducted detailed analysis of Valley weather patterns, at the request of the public. A professional meteorologist was part of the study team conducting such analyses.

Would the proposed South Mountain Freeway handle all of the excess traffic that is anticipated in 2035?

No, there is no single freeway that could accomplish that. This proposed freeway is seen as a part of the overall system improvements and expansion that will be needed to handle our future traffic. To address future needs, the Regional Transportation Plan includes several new and expanded freeways, improvements to I-10 at the Broadway Curve and enhancements to US 60, bus transit expansion, and additional studies into light rail transit. All of these projects are designed to work together to better meet the region’s transportation needs.

Implementation of the freeway would not completely solve the regional system-wide capacity deficiency in 2035. The proposed freeway’s additional operating capacity would alleviate about 55 percent of the projected 11 percent regional system capacity shortfall when incorporating the most optimistic scenario for adoption and performance of non-freeway improvements.

We don’t trust your traffic projections. We think they are flawed. Who will ensure that the projections are accurate? Who will gather the data?

The Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the air quality conformity determination that includes the Maricopa Association of Governments regional travel demand model that produced the traffic projections used in the traffic analysis for the project. Key model inputs used to forecast travel demand included:

  • socioeconomic data based on the adopted general plans of Maricopa Association of Governments members, which includes projected growth in population, housing, and employment (including proposed commercial centers), along with economic forecasts and the existing and planned transportation infrastructure as identified by Maricopa Association of Governments members
  • the anticipated average number of vehicle trips within the region (including those to and from the region’s households) on a daily basis (this number is tracked regularly by the Maricopa Association of Governments)
  • the distribution of transportation modes used by travelers in the Maricopa Association of Governments region (also tracked regularly by the Maricopa Association of Governments)
  • the capacity of the transportation infrastructure to accommodate regional travel
  • the future transportation infrastructure established using Regional Transportation Plan-planned projects and improvements and from known arterial street network improvements assumed to be made by the County, Cities, and private developers

The analyses in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement used socioeconomic and traffic projections at the regional analysis zone and traffic analysis zone levels. At the time of publication of the Draft EIS, Census 2010-based socioeconomic data at the regional analysis zone and traffic analysis zone levels had not been adopted by the Maricopa Association of Governments and were not available to the project team. Therefore, the data used in the Draft EIS was the most appropriate information available.

In June 2013, the Maricopa Association of Governments approved new socioeconomic projections for Maricopa County. The purpose and need and analysis of alternatives were updated and reevaluated using these new socioeconomic projections and corresponding projections related to regional traffic. The conclusions reached in the Draft EIS were validated in the Final EIS.

How has passage of the proposed extension of Maricopa County's ½ cent transportation sales tax (Proposition 400) in the November 2004 election affected the future of the proposed South Mountain Freeway?

Passage of Proposition 400 provides the primary source of funding for construction of the proposed South Mountain Freeway. Funding for the Regional Transportation Plan includes $9 billion in regional freeway improvements in Maricopa County. Consistent with federal planning guidelines, funding for transportation projects is based on revenue sources that are considered to be reasonably available for the planning period. This assumes that for planning purposes, funding sources with a long history of providing funding in the past will continue into the future.

Why did ADOT select the 55th Avenue alignment as the preferred western alignment and not the proposed 71st Avenue or Loop 101 alignments?

The W55th Avenue (now W59) Alternative was identified as the preliminary preferred alternative (and, with publication of the Final EIS, the Preferred Alternative in the Western Section) after comparing each of the Western Section proposed South Mountain Freeway alternatives in terms of addressing:

  • regional transportation needs
  • consistency with regional and long-range planning
  • environmental and societal impacts
  • traffic operational efficiencies
  • estimated costs
  • regional and public support

The South Mountain Citizen’s Advisory Team (SMCAT) recommended the W101 Alternative. However, the study team considered the input of all stakeholders—including regional leaders, municipalities, historical planning, and public/SMCAT input—to identify the W55 Alternative (now the W59 Alternative) as the Preferred Alternative. The Final EIS has detailed discussion regarding the relative merits and problems with the four action alternatives fully evaluated in the Western Section. The No-Action Alternative also underwent detailed evaluation.

Is this freeway going to have elevated interchanges?

It is anticipated that most of the interchanges would be elevated, with the proposed freeway’s main line elevated over arterial cross streets.

Is there a guarantee ADOT will buy the homes and businesses that lie within proposed right-of-way lines on the maps?

The right-of-way lines are based on the best information available today. The lines are identified to show the area of impacts and are a good estimate of the area necessary to construct a freeway. Some refinement of these lines would take place during the design phase, which would identify the exact properties that would need to be acquired. With specific questions about proposed right-of-way impacts, contact the ADOT Right-of-Way Group at 602.712.7316.