Members may vote to allow freeway on community land
The Gila River Indian Community Tribal Council will meet next week to decide on the fate of a proposed extension of the Loop 202 SanTan Freeway on tribal land.
The Tribal Council has set a meeting for Wednesday, Feb. 20, to vote on whether to allow the extension, or to put the matter to a public vote.
Members of the Indian Community voted in a referendum a year ago on the issue. Originally, the vote was between whether to allow the freeway to be built on tribal land or not. At the last minute, a third option was added, called "no build", which garnered the most votes. Supporters of the freeway say that tribal members were led to believe that "no build" would prevent any expansion of the current local street, known as Pecos Road, into a freeway.
However, the Arizona Department of Transportation said afterward that "no build" was not a realistic option – that the road needs to be expanded, and the only question was whether it would be on tribal land or on the Pecos Rd. alignment.
Building a freeway along the current Pecos Rd. to connect to Loop 101 in the west valley would require condemning and tearing down a couple hundred Ahwatukee homes and a church, and blasting away a portion of South Mountain, which the Indian Community considers sacred.
Gila River Indian Community member Joseph Perez, who supports building the freeway on tribal land, tells KFYI News that it would have "an enormous economic impact on the community" that "rivals casino gaming" because of all the commercial development that would likely occur along the freeway – development which the tribe could control and profit from if the freeway is on tribal land.