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PARC fights South Mountain Freeway

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The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is hoping they have convinced the public that the South Mountain Freeway (SMF) is a “done deal.” While it is true that ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have released a Record of Decision (ROD) to build the SMF, this event marks the beginning of the real work for which Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children (PARC) has been preparing for years. The ROD is the end of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). It marks the beginning, however, of the legal process that is permitted by law.

PARC has responded to the Draft EIS released in 2013 and the Final EIS released in 2014 with in-depth expert commentary identifying the unresolved issues brought to light during the EIS process. For the most part, ADOT has not resolved these issues. That means that PARC’s expert comments regarding the unresolved issues provide a basis – a very strong basis – for legal action against building the SMF.

With the release of the ROD, ADOT began planning and buying homes immediately. PARC then filed suit against ADOT and the FHWA in federal court in May 2015. While the local Arizona District Court ruled against us in August 2016, we feel confident that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will rule very differently! The case has been appealed and a ruling is expected in 2017 or 2018.

PARC entered the legal process with what we expect will stop the SMF for good. Pessimists say that suing the government is a useless exercise, but they are wrong. A good body of case law exists on other freeways that have been stopped. In most of these cases, a freeway was stopped just because one important issue was not resolved. PARC has at least seven (7) areas of issues with the SMF, and any one of them can stop this freeway! Putting all these issues together makes PARC’s chances of winning in court extremely good.

These issues are:

·      Distortion of purpose and need for the SMF – the SMF would not improve traffic congestion, it would just bring truck traffic closer to downtown

·      Air pollution – would be considerably worsened rather than helped as ADOT claims

·      Negative health effects – especially for children living and going to school within ½ mile of the SMF, there are 15,000 children in 17 schools right next to the proposed freeway

·      Destruction of wells – wells in the SMF right-of-way are currently used to water golf courses and fill lakes, drilling in the area has shown that it isn’t likely they can be replaced

·      Danger from hazardous materials – estimates are that several thousand hazmats per day would drive through a heavily populated area with limited egress in case of a spill, yet ADOT has no plan for protecting the population

·      Desecration of South Mountain – home to South Mountain Park/Preserve, the country’s largest wilderness municipal park, South Mountain is also sacred to several Native American tribes in Arizona, yet ADOT would destroy 3 mountain ridges for the SMF

·      Destruction of quality of life – noise could not be contained with an above-ground freeway next to the foothills of South Mountain, crime that is currently extremely low in the “world’s largest cul de sac” would be greatly facilitated by a freeway, and home values would plummet  

With the expectation of a long and difficult court case, PARC needs donations of all sizes! Thank you!


  • Laura Hertzler
    • $25 
    • 7 yrs


Pat Lawlis
Phoenix, AZ

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