The federal government has given final approval to a 22-mile stretch of freeway in Phoenix known as the South Mountain Loop 202. Construction on the $1.9 Billion freeway will start next year, and could be completed by 2019. Timothy Tait of the Arizona Department of Transportation will tell us more.
Ted Simons: Last week the federal highway administration issued a Record of Decision for the South Mountain Loop 202 freeway in Phoenix. What does it mean for the long-debated and much-discussed loop South of South Mountain? We welcome Timothy Tait of the Arizona department of transportation. Quickly, what is the South Mountain Freeway?
Timothy Tait: It really is the last of the Loop 202 system, a new freeway to connect Interstate 10 at Pecos Road around the corner of South Mountain and reconnect with I-10 at 59th Avenue.
Ted Simons: People still, without actually seeing this, this is like, again, Pecos is around the South of South Mountain, correct?
Timothy Tait: It'll go around the South corner of South Mountain, about a mile of freeway will go through the park.
Ted Simons: That would be toward, what, the southwest side?
Timothy Tait: That's right, about the southwest side, the Bend where it makes the turn around the corner.
Ted Simons: How many lanes are we talking about here?
Timothy Tait: We're talking about eight lanes, four lanes in each direction, three general lanes and an HOV lane in each direction.
Ted Simons: The federal highway administration gives the final okay, what does that mean? We have had so many stories on the South Mountain Freeway, I've seen so many maps. It criss-crosses the entire region. Is this a done deal?
Timothy Tait: This is a done deal at this point. The federal highway administration has given approval, the route has been selected and we're to move forward as an agency.
Ted Simons: How do you move forward?
Timothy Tait: The first step is getting a process to acquire the property needed for the freeway. There are about 400 parcels we need to require, and 200 of those are homes. We've been appraising houses and we're beginning the process of working with homeowners to come to an agreement with prices for their property.
Ted Simons: How does that work? Say I'm in the middle of lane 3 of the freeway. How does that work?
Timothy Tait: ADot will do an appraisal of the house and present that to the homeowner. Then it's a negotiation like any other home purchase. We try to come to agreement with the homeowner. We don't like to get into an aggressive stance on acquiring right of way. We try to really work with community members and owners of property to come to an agreement on what the property is worth so we can pay what is market Value for their property.
What about the freeway design? Does it now get an extra impetus?
Timothy Tait: It's going to be constructed as a public private partnership, a first for ADOT. The developer will be selected towards the end of this year. They will do design, construction and 30 years of maintenance on the freeway.
Ted Simons: Is there a business process out there already?
Timothy Tait: The process is out there and we are narrowing the selection of contractors do this project, and we develop a short-list of those contractors this month sometime.
Ted Simons: I would imagine with the federal approval, you're saying doesn't seem like too much of a problem. When could we expect to see bulldozers out there moving around?
Timothy Tait: work happening by 2016. We expect to have traffic moving by 2020.
Ted Simons: The public private partnership, how do you get that done? That seems like that might be a complicated process.
Timothy Tait: It is a complicated process, really new territory for ADOT. It's really tapping into innovation and looking to best practices and best form from the private industry to find out how to do things better, smarter, and a better value for taxpayers.
Ted Simons: I think we have a video that includes the map and shows the exact routes. People who might be confused about what we're talking about, we're starting at Pecos Road, then we hit I-10. As far as the driving is concerned, you would now be driving with South Mountain to the North of you. This is the Pecos intersection, interchange down here, and you are heading west on this video South of South Mountain.
Timothy Tait: That's right. You would be south of South Mountain a new experience for drivers. It really provides that vital connection between the southeast valley and the west Valley. It's a connection that right now is lacking and we rely on the broadway curve which is overloaded.
Ted Simons: The public private partnership, does this mean we will see toll roads?
Ted Simons: Absolutely will not be a toll road.
Ted Simons: How come?
Timothy Tait: The money is already in the bank. It was part of proposition 300 in 1985. It has local funding from a .5-cent taxi in Maricopa County.
Ted Simons: Still going west on the proposed freeway, concerns by the reservation. Still exist?
Timothy Tait: Certainly the members of the tribal community and really tribal communities throughout the state have concerns over construction of South Mountain Freeway. We have been sensitive to those concerns and we will with torque mitigate those as best we can.
Ted Simons: Environmental concerns, what are they?
Timothy Tait: Any time you build a new freeway, there are concerns. Traffic is going continue to build in metro Phoenix and a freeway like this is need to do take that pressure off the metro system.
Ted Simons: Is this the freeway truckers would use on the way to Los Angeles? Or would they continue to use the existing route?
Timothy Tait: We believe they will use the route that bypasses Phoenix entirely. That's a much more efficient route for trucks going through the Valley and not making a stop.
Ted Simons: Hey, there are a lot of trucks on I-10.
Timothy Tait: We don't expect the truck volumes to be any different.
Ted Simons: Who's using this road? They seem to be gaining in altitude here.
Timothy Tait: It'll primarily be used by local commuters, people from the South Valley headed to the West Valley.
Ted Simons: Construction starting 2016?
Timothy Tait: Yes.
Ted Simons: Completion date?
Timothy Tait: Early 2018 or 2019.
Ted Simons: You start in Chandler or Levine? Where are you starting?
Timothy Tait: That's a mystery, it'll be learned once developers are brought on board.
Ted Simons: For those who still don't like this idea and still oppose this idea, are there ways to protest and get their voices heard? Or again, is this pretty much over?
Timothy Tait: Well, starting on Friday the federal government does allow a 150-day period to contest the project. There's a window that is available for folks to essentially file suit against the project. We think we've done a rigorous and defensible project, and we think we'll sustain any of those lawsuits.
Ted Simons: That's pretty much the route you have wanted all along, isn't it?
Timothy Tait: That was essentially the route proposed back into the 1980s with some modification.
Ted Simons: Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Timothy Tait: Thank you, Ted.
Timothy Tait:Arizona Department of Transportation;