Time hasn’t seemed to heal the wounds that a proposed freeway would inflict on the Ahwatukee Foothills. If anything, residents who would lose their homes or be close to the South Mountain Freeway’s path say their lives have grown worse since learning of the project last fall.
“I feel like a hostage,” said Richard De Mauro, a real estate agent who lives about 70 feet from the proposed route. “My neighbors feel like hostages.”
De Mauro was one of about 200 people who gathered Wednesday night at Desert Vista High School to rally against the plan to extend Loop 202 through the Ahwatukee Foothills and to the West Valley.
They vowed to fight politically, or legally if needed, to kill the highway. And they found plenty of moral support from Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., who organized the meeting to discuss a freeway he has already come out against.
The forum turned into a free-for-all at times against the Arizona Department of Transportation for wanting to build a freeway that would destroy at least 255 homes.
Critics talked of “undesirable” people using the freeway to access an uppermiddle-class community.
Several residents said the South Mountain Freeway will cut a path too close to schools and fill playgrounds with pollution.
Uncertainty over the freeway has put many homeowners in limbo, De Mauro said. Numerous “for sale” signs have popped up near its proposed path on Pecos Road, he said.
ADOT shook the community last fall by announcing it was reviving plans for the freeway, first outlined when voters approved a regional transportation plan in 1985.
Phoenix and ADOT set aside most land needed for it through Ahwatukee Foothills, but later funding woes made many doubt it would be built.
Many of the forum attendees called for the freeway to go on Gila River Indian Community land immediately south of Pecos Road.
Tribal leaders have rejected that idea so far, but ADOT spokesman Matt Burdick said the agency hopes the community will consider the possibility.
Transportation planners argue the freeway is essential to serve the booming Valley’s needs. It would help relieve congestion at the Broadway curve on I-10, now clogged with 250,000 vehicles a day but expected to grow to 450,000 vehicles a day in 25 years.
Hayworth said he’s more open to a freeway on Gila land and said initial talks suggest tribal leaders are open to a discussion.