Environmental groups sue to stop South Mountain Freeway construction

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The much-discussed, much-debated, much-maligned, much-praised proposed Loop 202 freeway along the southern border of Ahwatukee is now the target of a lawsuit filed in federal court.

Opponents want a judge to shut down the freeway project, they claim it will do damage to the environment and sacred Indian religious sites.

The project would extend the Loop 202 along Ahwatukee's Southern Border and out to the west side. It is supposed to take trucks off Interstate 10.

Opponents also claim it would be a noisy hazard to their health.

The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order, and/or a preliminary injunction to block the construction of the Loop 202 Freeway on what is now Pecos Road through Ahwatukee. It alleges that the Arizona Department of Transportation did an inadequate study before deciding on the Loop 202 route, they did not look seriously at building the freeway lower into the ground to take away noise, and the freeway will have bad effects on child health by putting toxins in the air near schools.

The filers include a mix of community associations and environmentalists.

"So we say to ADOT, move the freeway somewhere else, or just scrap the idea, our seniors, and children, and sacred mountains deserve nothing less than this level of protection," said Pat Lawlis.

FOX 10 brought a copy of the lawsuit to ADOT.

"Well we certainly haven't had a chance to review the legal filing in any detail at this point... in general we believe the process was done in full compliance with the law, an exhaustive analysis of the project, the benefits, and the consequences," said Tim Tait with ADOT.

Members of the Gila River Tribal Community also objected to the freeway.

"This mountain is sacred to us, like a church to us. The Federal Government and State Government acknowledge all religions but the Native American religion," said Lori Riddle with the Gila River Alliance for a Clean Environment.

Construction of the Loop 202 extension is supposed to begin next year. Opponents say the road would wind up being a bypass for big semi-trucks. ADOT says it would have the same truck/car mix as any other valley freeway.