Don't Waste Arizona, Inc.

A non-profit environmental organization created for the protection, conservation, and preservation of the human and natural environment in and around Phoenix, and the state of Arizona.



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Proposed South Mountain Freeway an Environmental Disaster

So Much for the Bring Back Blue Campaign

The air in the Phoenix metro area is so polluted with particulate matter that the EPA has issued a notice that gives the valley a year to reduce particulate matter emissions by 5% of its annual total. The EPA is focused on PM10 violations, and until recently, there had been no reports of PM2.5 violations, but over the 2006 Christmas season, there were high levels detected. To try to raise awareness about the issue, the county is spending $1 million on an advertising campaign named Bring Back Blue.

The exceedances of the federal standards for particulate matter PM 10 pollution have mostly been at the air monitoring station at the West 43rd Avenue monitoring site near the Salt River bed. [For a full map of the air monitoring system in Maricopa County, go to: Live!

There had been many more severe violations also at a monitoring station at 22nd Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road, but after then state senator Rusty Bowers demanded that the monitor be moved, it was relocated to the 43rd Avenue location. He now is a lobbyist with the sand and gravel industry. The sand and gravel operation at 19th Avenue and the Salt River bed was one of the first companies fined by EPA after Maricopa County failed to prosecute particulate matter violations.

Despite the $1 million Bring Back Blue Campaign to reduce particulate matter in the air, the South Mountain Freeway, if built, will trump all of these efforts. The South Mountain Freeway would run through the mountain pass at 51st Avenue, about a mile or so upwind of the air monitor at 43rd Avenue. Efforts to reduce particulate matter by the Bring Back Blue campaign will have to be successful valley-wide to have an impact on this monitor, but another local source of pollution near the monitor would negate all of the effects of those efforts.

So all the additional air pollution from all the traffic from the South Mountain Freeway would ensure that the monitor at 43rd Avenue would always have exceedances. Common sense tells us that adding pollution to the most polluted site in the valley will just mean we will loose that $1.1 billion in highway funds and never qualify for more.

Taxpayers Will Foot Bill for Chemical Contamination in Freeway Path

The South Mountain Freeway as proposed would connect with I-10 at 55th Avenue. To do so, it crosses a state Superfund site, in something the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) calls the Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund (WQARF). The map of the plume of contaminants runs from about 7th Avenue to 75th Avenue can be seen on page three of an ADEQ newsletter at:

Besides the solvents in the plume, there is also contamination in that area: petroleum hydrocarbon from the small refining operation in the area as well as spills and leaks from the petroleum tank farms in the area. When ADOT takes the property in the area as it secures the freeway route, the taxpayers will become responsible for the environmental cleanup, rather than the businesses that caused the contamination in the first place. The costs to taxpayers will be in the many millions of dollars.

Canamex Highway Issues

The CANAMEX Trade Corridor, as defined by Congress in the 1995 National Highway Systems Designation Act, is a High Priority Corridor. (Public Law 104-59, November 28, 1995) [See] (26) The CANAMEX Corridor from Nogales, Arizona, through Las Vegas, Nevada, to Salt Lake City, Utah, to Idaho Falls, Idaho, to Montana, to the Canadian Border as follows: (A) In the State of Arizona, the CANAMEX Corridor shall generally follow-- (i) I-19 from Nogales to Tucson; (ii) I-10 from Tucson to Phoenix; and (iii) United States Route 93 in the vicinity of Phoenix to the Nevada Border. You can be sure the trucks originating in Mexico coming up on the Canamex Highway system will be using diesel fuel purchased there in Mexico, which is not the new diesel fuel with lowered sulfur levels, CARB diesel, now being required by the US Environmental Protection Agency. And these trucks won’t have to meet our US or Arizona emissions standards for diesel trucks, either. So the diesel smoke and emissions will be higher than what is now allowed or expected for diesel trucks in the US fleet. In California, diesel exhaust is considered a hazardous air pollutant, a special category because of how harmful it is.

To prevent all the air pollution that diesel trucks would bring, it would make much more sense to route the truck traffic coming up I-10 to I-8, which is just south of Casa Grande, then over to Gila Bend and then up to I-10 west of the metro area. But if the South Mountain Freeway is ever built, this creates a 50+ mile short cut for all these trucks. Further, the I-8 route has few amenities, and the I-10 route has plenty, and even has casinos, motels, restaurants, etc. It is easy to see that truckers would use the South Mountain Freeway instead of a longer, lonelier road. Image 1 and Image 2

Recent studies show that children living near freeways had permanent lung damage and cause more heart disease in women. Freeways harm the health of those who live nearby. Ten schools in Ahwatukee Foothills will be adjacent to the proposed freeway route.

Blast South Mountain Park?

ADOT proposes to blast away the west end of the nation’s largest city park, home to many desert animals and a favorite recreational place of many locals and tourists. It would take the equivalent mass of several of Chase Baseball stadiums. A canyon will be blasted through two peaks of South Mountain 40 stories high and 200 yards wide.

Endangered Species in Salt River

The endangered Yuma Clapper Rail is apparently located within the area along the Salt River that the South Mountain Freeway would cross. The area is in the Rio Salado West project, which would connect the Tres Rios Project at 91st Avenue and the Rio Salado Project located between 19th Avenue and 32nd Street in Phoenix. There are breeding pairs of Yuma clapper rail at the Tres Rios Project, and the goal of the three projects is to create habitat corridor for these endangered birds. The South Mountain Freeway would bisect this habitat and flyway.

Civil Rights Issues

The people who live along the Salt River bed where the air is so bad are mostly ethnic minority. The worst air in the metro area is in their part of the southwest valley, with the 43rd Avenue monitor with the highest particulate matter readings. When the air monitor was stationed at 22nd Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road, it had even higher readings.

The addition of the extra pollution from the South Mountain Freeway would have a disparate impact on these unfortunate folks, as they are already disproportionately at risk due to the high particulate matter levels that are already there. Coupled with the recent findings that emissions from traffic on freeways will harm children’s lungs, proceeding with the South Mountain Freeway now would seem more like an intentional civil rights violation, but it certainly would be a discriminatory effect.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in all programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance. Title VI itself prohibits intentional discrimination.

The Supreme Court has ruled, however, that Title VI authorizes federal agencies to adopt implementing regulations that prohibit discriminatory effects as well as intentional discrimination. Frequently, discrimination results from policies and practices that are neutral on their face, but have the effect of discriminating. “ Facially-neutral policies or practices that result in discriminatory effects violate… Title VI regulations unless it is shown that they are justified and that there is no less discriminatory alternative."

The Concerned Residents of South Phoenix (CRSP) is a non-profit environmental organization based in the area. CRSP has successfully filed civil rights complaints before on other environmental discriminatory actions, and is poised to file a similar complaint should there be an approval and construction of the South Mountain Freeway.

The South Mountain Freeway Won’t Relieve Traffic at the I-10 Broadway Curve

Studies of the traffic from Ahwatukee Foothills that help choke off the I-10 Broadway Curve indicate that most people are driving to a job in Tempe and downtown Phoenix. So it doesn’t make sense for a person to drive to I-10 and 55th Avenue to go to work, especially because traffic there is already slow and backed up during rush hour. The added traffic from Ahwatukee Foothills will only make that worse. Experts seem to agree: "The South Mountain Freeway won't affect the Broadway Curve much" -Bob Hazlett, MAG Senior Engineer (AZ Republic 4/1/06) See

Hazmat Issues

Ahwatukee Foothills, bordered on the north by South Mountain, enjoys a woven, cul-de-sac, road design. The sheltered inner streets encourage an outdoor life, along with its many parks. The community was not designed to be compatible with an adjacent freeway. The proposed South Mountain Freeway would be a quarter of a mile from several schools and adjacent to parks. The South Mountain Freeway would be a truck bypass for all sorts of hazardous materials traffic. Trying to evacuate the community in the event of a serious incident involving hazardous materials would be quite impossible. The layout of the streets is an emergency planning nightmare. There are chemicals commonly transported to the metro area, such as chlorine, that could quickly spread a toxic cloud for several miles, harming anyone outside, and would be especially dangerous near the site of the spill. [See

There would also have to be a siren alert system for warning people in the parks and other outdoor areas, like golf courses.


The South Mountain Freeway:
  1. Lowers the quality of life for Ahwatukee Foothills;
  2. Brings in annoying, nuisance-level noise 24 hours a day, every day and night;
  3. Would require destroying over 250 homes;
  4. Disrupts a very nice community that is already built; and
  5. Is incompatible with the huge developed community that is already there.