Within the last year the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) Transportation Technical Team (TTT) has conducted community outreach meetings for feedback to aid in the process of consideration of the proposed South Mountain Loop 202 freeway on Community lands approximately 1,000-4,000 feet from the Community boundary at Pecos Road. However in this process, the TTT has presented only two Loop 202 alignment options:
1) the E1 Alignment—the off reservation or Pecos Road alignment; and
2) the GRIC alignment—the “optional” on-reservation alignment. The current on-reservation study is in conjunction with GRIC, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) and the city of Phoenix.
The E1 Alternative or Pecos Alignment: The E1 Alternative or Pecos Alignment, was finalized in 2005 by ADOT. It is a corridor approximately 1000 feet wide and is about 37 miles long. From the intersection with I-10 and the Santan portion of the Loop 202, the proposed Pecos Alignment/E1 Alternative follows Pecos Road, turning to avoid the GRIC and cutting through South Mountain. The alignment then turns north near 59th Avenue to intersect with I-10 (Fig. 1).
GRIC Alignment: In 2000 by resolution, District 6 Community members voted down the consideration of a freeway on tribal land. Later in 2005, a GRIC-wide resolution reinforced the previous decision. The people had spoken clearly: the South Mountain Freeway was not wanted on tribal lands.
Yet in January 2010 Governor Bill Rhodes sent a letter to Governor Brewer and ADOT to reopen the issue. The letter outlined concerns of the Community, including avoiding cultural sites, preserving traditional routes and wildlife corridors, and not cutting into South Mountain. This study option was identified as consisted with the Gila Borderlands Regional Planning Study conducted for the GRIC in 1988.
The On-Reservation alignment proposed by GRIC leadership in 2010 is touted as an “alternative” to address community members concerns about the cultural and environmental impact of the Pecos Alignment.
The proposed GRIC alignment runs from Pecos Park on 48th Street southward, turning east west- ward, paralleling Pecos Road. It extends toward a District 6 subdivision to avoid cutting into South Mountain. There is less than 1 mile between the Pecos and GRIC Alignment’s (see Fig. 1).
While the people declare that a freeway is not wanted on tribal land, tribal leadership continues to do what it thinks is best. But when looked at closer, the preservation of South Mountain by way of the proposed GRIC route is not much different from the Pecos Alignment. Impacts are NOT mitigated by a distance of less than 1 mile. Looked at another way, it becomes clearer that South Mountain preservation is only a front to bolster leadership’s real concern: economic development.