ADOT starts demolishing homes for Loop 202 extension

Paint marks an Ahwatukee home slated for demolition to make way for the planned South Mountain Freeway. (Photo by Ty Scholes/Cronkite News)

Sherry Woodwing, who has declined to sell her Ahwatukee Foothills home to make way for the South Mountain Freeway, watches demolition begin in her neighborhood Thursday, Aug. 27. (Photo by Audrey Weil/Cronkite News)

A crew starts demolishing an Ahwatukee home Thursday, Aug. 27, to make way for the planned South Mountain Freeway. (Photo by Ty Scholes/Cronkite News)

Crews have started demolishing homes in the Ahwatukee Foothills to make way for a long-planned Loop 202 extension.

The Arizona Department of Transportation has purchased about 200 homes in the path of the South Mountain Freeway. Seventy-three are in Goldman Ranch, where heavy equipment tore down one stucco home and began razing another Thursday.

Holdouts remain, including Sherry Woodwing, who watched the demolition from her house next door.

“I’ve known it was a possibility for 20 years, but we were told it was all fiction and never going to happen,” she said.

ADOT plans to begin construction next summer on the 22-mile extension, which take traffic south of and through part of South Mountain. It will connect with Interstate 10 at 59th Avenue in west Phoenix and the southern Loop 202.

The Federal Highway Administration gave final approval to the nearly $2 billion project in March.

The plan, controversial since it was proposed in the 1980s, faces a federal lawsuit filed in May by a coalition including Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children (PARC) and the Sierra Club.

The groups argue that there’s no justification for the freeway, that it would harm religious and historic sites and that officials haven’t provided adequate information on the health and environmental impacts. They also point with worry at plans to carve through two ridges in the South Mountain Park Preserve.

“South Mountain is one of the most beloved preserves in the Valley,” said Pat Lawlis, founder of PARC. “ADOT must not know what preserve means. And I don’t think the people of the Valley understand how much it will scar the landscape.”

An ADOT spokesman said the agency wouldn’t conduct interviews on the project until next week. Its website says completing the Loop 202 will provide alternatives to already congested routes and that freeway’s primary purpose isn’t creating a truck bypass for downtown Phoenix, as many opponents contend.