The Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) has been aware of this freeway project for over twenty-five years, when the South Mountain extension to the Loop 202 was once called State Route 218. GRIC has opposed the freeway since the beginning, due to the negative impacts it would have on the community’s health, land and sacred sites. In spite of GRIC’s resistance to the 202 extension, throughout the 1990s, the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) and the Arizona Department of Transportations (ADOT) did not respect the self-determination of GRIC by continuing to plan and allocate funds for the freeway.
In light of MAG’s and ADOT’s desire to build the freeway, GRIC passed a resolution against the proposed South Mountain Freeway in 2000 and designated South Mountain as a sacred site/traditional cultural property in April 2007.
Despite clear GRIC opposition, MAG approved a $1.9 billion budget for the freeway in fall 2009. ADOT did not share the NO BUILD option, the only outcome that protects our entire sacred mountain. Additionally in February 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer sent a letter to former GRIC Governor Rhodes encouraging a path for the freeway on GRIC land. By doing so, MAG, ADOT and Jan Brewer undermined our tribal sovereignty and decision-making process by planning for the 202 extension as if the freeway is a done deal.
In off-reservation meetings, and regional transportation planning meetings, ADOT has manipulated the outcome of the Loop 202. ADOT chooses to tell GRIC leadership and Community members that the only say our tribe has in the freeway planning process was that of choosing a route, because the city of Phoenix has to have a new freeway. NO BUILD means no freeway at all. NO BUILD is clearly listed as an alternative on ADOT’s own website, for any transportation project under consideration. Even our own GRIC Transportation Technical Team (GR TTT) neglected to share the NO BUILD alternative in its outreach with the community.
Furthermore, MAG and ADOT have not even released a draft Environment Impact Statement (EIS). GRIC was told it would be ready for release and public hearings in 2006. Six years later, we are now told it will be available in the spring of 2012. This delay shows an alarming lack of respect for the impacts the freeway would have on our people.Still, GRIC’s Tribal Council did not address the lack of EIS in the September 2011 special tribal council meeting about the 202. In this meeting, by approving a 202 referendum ,GRIC Tribal Council sent the issue of the South Mountain 202 extension to its voters for the third time in twelve years.
GRIC members are now left to make a monumental community decision without an EIS. On February 7th2012, there will be a GRIC vote on the Loop 202 freeway.
For a clear outlook of what the process of this freeway has looked like, please see our Time tab.