Phoenix Metro Area Projects

Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the status of the EIS?

The Arizona Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration recently completed the public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or “Draft EIS,” for the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway. 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.

How were comments submitted to 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:

Email: projects@azdot.gov

Mail:

Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway Study
Arizona Department of Transportation
1655 W. Jackson St.
MD 126F
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Online: SMFOnlineHearing.com

At the public hearing:
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Phoenix Convention Center, North Ballroom
100 N. Third St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Three-minute verbal comments were made at the Public Hearing. Court reporters were also 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 are 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 was held as part of the Draft EIS review process. The public was encouraged to participate and submit their comments on the Draft EIS during the 90-day comment 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 proposed South Mountain Freeway be located?

The proposed freeway is divided into two segments, an eastern section and a western section. The eastern section connects to I-10 adjacent to the current Loop 202 Santan Freeway, and the western section veers north to connect the freeway loop to I-10. For the eastern section, the proposed alignment follows Pecos Road. This alignment was first proposed in 1985 and affirmed in the 1988 Environmental Assessment. For the western section, the proposed freeway alignment is called the "W59 Alternative," which provides a north-south connection of the South Mountain to I-10 near 59th Avenue. A "no build" option also is being evaluated, as required by federal law.

When would the freeway be built?

If the outcome of the study is a build alternative, then the timing of construction will depend upon the completion of final design, right of way acquisition, and utility relocation. A corridor implementation plan developed by ADOT will identify how to construct the overall project, including the length and sequence of construction segments. The current Regional Freeway and Highway Program identifies construction funding for the freeway to begin in fiscal year 2015.

Why does this process take so long?

This is a complex and important research project. Engineers, researchers and environmental scientists must determine the impacts of new information that is discovered throughout the process. This process is one of discovery. Therefore, much of the data for this project must be updated to include the best available, most accurate information. That said, ADOT and FHWA are committed to concluding this study as quickly as possible and coming to resolution on the future of the proposed South Mountain Freeway.

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 2014. 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 Draft EIS had a 90-day comment period — twice the duration that federal regulations require. A public hearing was held on May 21, 2013, where individuals provided comments for up to three minutes in front of a study team panel, or provide comments with no specific time limit to a court reporter. Comment forms were available for written comment. During the 90­-day period, comments were also made using email, phone, this project website and by mail.

What happens after the Draft EIS comment period ends?

After July 24, 2013 (the end of the 90-day comment period), the study team will review and address all comments received, regardless of how they are submitted, in the Final EIS document. A 60-­day comment period will also be available after publication of the Final EIS.

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 Feb. 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 Feb. 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 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (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 Draft 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 Draft 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.

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.

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 will be reviewed and addressed in the Final EIS document. Public comments received on the Final EIS will also be considered and addressed as appropriate.

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

Public hearing held during the DEIS

A public hearing was held on May 21, 2013, at the Phoenix Convention Center North Ballroom from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. During this public hearing, public comments on the Draft EIS were made before a study team panel or given individually to a court reporter. Comment forms were available for written comment.

The Draft EIS had a 90-day comment period — twice the duration that federal regulations require. During the 90-day comment period, this website also had comment forms available. In addition, community forums were held at various locations in the Study Area after the public hearing. At these community forums, technical staff were available to answer questions and explain study material. The study video was available for viewing. For the whole 90­-day period, comments were also made using email, phone, online on this project website, and by mail. A 60-­day comment period will also be available after publication of 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 EIS has 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 three 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 action, a multidisciplinary process was undertaken to identify a range of reasonable alternatives to be studied in detail in the Draft EIS. The process involved identifying, comparatively screening and eliminating alternatives based on these sources of information:

  • 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 the amount of truck traffic that would be generated if an action alternative were to become the Selected Alternative and 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.

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 these reasons:

  • 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 EIS. The team anticipates that the change to a smaller configuration would 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.
  • still have noise-related impacts requiring mitigation (i.e., noise barriers and their associated costs and visual impacts).

Because the below-ground 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 below-ground segments, as is proposed with this corridor.

Where would the interchanges be located?

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

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 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 action in the future.

How long will this study take to complete?

The study began in July 2001. Traditionally, this type of study takes five to seven 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 the mid 2014.

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 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 its Draft EIS — neither supplement nor update the 1988 state-level Environmental Assessment. The ongoing 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 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.

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, and one that can be changed — was based on the data and conclusions presented throughout the Draft 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 EIS.

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

If the Preferred Alternatives identified in the Draft EIS were to become the Selected Alternatives, 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 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 used an 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?

Yes, the only freeway locations in the Valley where hazardous cargo is prohibited is I-10 (Papago Freeway) through the Deck Park Tunnel and on Loop 202 (Red Mountain Freeway) along the mile-long bridge above the Salt River in Tempe. Such restrictions on this freeway are not anticipated at this time.

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

The carbon monoxide project-level air quality analysis demonstrated that regardless of the Western Section action alternative selected (if any), no receptors in the Eastern Section would violate the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), based on projected 2035 traffic. Although a meaningful evaluation of ozone concentrations at the project level is not possible, the action alternative is included in the RTP that has been determined by FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration to conform to the State Implementation Plan.

Levels of carbon monoxide near the proposed new fully directional interchanges along the Community boundary are projected to increase; these areas would not, however, violate the NAAQS, based on projected 2035 traffic. It is important to note that no residential receptors currently exist on Community land near the proposed interchanges and few residential receptors exist near the proposed freeway.

The air quality analysis showed that the E1 Alternative would conform to all relevant air quality requirements.

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 Draft 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 traffic assessment for the Study Area employed the MAG travel demand model (TransCAD software platform), as certified by FHWA and reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for air quality conformity. The model projects demand for multiple modes of travel, including automobile, bus and light rail. Key model inputs used to forecast travel demand included

  • socioeconomic data based on the adopted general plans of MAG members, along with population and economic forecasts and the existing and planned transportation infrastructure as identified by MAG 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 monitored regularly by MAG).
  • the distribution of transportation modes used by travelers in the MAG region (also monitored regularly by MAG).
  • the capacity of the transportation infrastructure to accommodate regional travel.
  • the future transportation infrastructure established using RTP-planned projects and improvements and from known arterial street network improvements assumed to be made by the County, Cities, and private developers.

The Draft EIS provides more detail on the data inputs to the modeling effort and discussions of the assumptions used.

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 Draft 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 Citizens 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 Draft 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.

Would the Eastern or the Western Section be constructed first?

If the Preferred Alternative were to become the Selected Alternatives in the Record of Decision, the construction schedule would be determined as part of the construction implementation plan. Upon completion of the initial design phase, the final right of way acquisition process and other "early construction" tasks such as utility relocations would begin. Also, the corridor would be divided into multiple final design segments to establish the construction implementation plan. The termini of these segments would be determined through consideration of several factors, including

  • traffic performance and continuity.
  • off-site drainage considerations.
  • impacts to residential areas.
  • earthwork management.
  • construction contract management.

The proposed construction implementation plan would schedule construction of the corridor to begin at the I-10 (Papago Freeway) system traffic interchange and continue south to approximately Baseline Road. Additional construction would begin near the I-10 (Maricopa Freeway) system traffic interchange and continue along Pecos Road, through the South Mountains, and end at approximately 51st Avenue. Finally, these two roadway lengths would be connected by constructing the remaining freeway segments between Baseline Road and 51st Avenue.

The duration of construction is anticipated to be five to six years. Construction sequencing and duration could change based on several factors, including funding availability, traffic volumes, coordination with other major freeway projects, earthwork balancing, utility relocation schedules and regional priorities.

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.

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.