Newsroom | Message from the Chair, February 2020

MAG News

I had the unique pleasure of being the MAG chair as the Valley saw the opening of Congressman Ed Pastor Freeway (Loop 202 South Mountain)—the largest freeway project in state history.

Regional Council, Chair Message, Mitchell

I had the unique pleasure of being the MAG chair as the Valley saw the opening of Congressman Ed Pastor Freeway (Loop 202 South Mountain)—the largest freeway project in state history. Never before have 22 miles of freeway opened up in one fell swoop. I was proud to witness this milestone, not only as the leader of an East Valley community that will see an important new connection to the Southwest Valley, but also as the representative of MAG, which charted the course for this day 30 years ago. 

MAG worked tirelessly over three decades to see this moment, and it was my honor to be the chair who bears final witness to the delivery of a promise to Maricopa County voters to complete the Loop 101 and 202 system.  It truly was a historic moment.

But I want to take this opportunity to speak directly to those commuters who are now traveling this pavement on a daily basis. Because of your support, we have the opportunity we need to position our region for growth and opportunity. This new freeway will connect communities and employment centers that will bring about future prosperity, and for that, we are grateful for your support. 

The freeway was first identified as the South Mountain Loop, and was included as part of Proposition 300 in 1985. Since then, it has faced a number of obstacles. First, it met delays due to a declining economy and funding limitations.  It also required the deliberative and detailed development of alternatives, and the most extensive environmental review of any highway project to date. Lastly, it had to overcome legal challenges that were finally resolved in late 2017.

The freeway will create important new economic opportunities. As noted in our cover story, MAG estimates that the majority of the population and employment growth in our region will take place within the areas of the Valley connected by the South Mountain Freeway corridor. This means economic vitality not just for those areas, but for the entire region.

That is why I also want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for my Regional Council predecessors and peers, as well as to numerous MAG staff who have worked on this project. I applaud previous Regional Councils for their leadership in bringing us to this important freeway facility. I also want to call out two people who were involved with this project from the beginning: current Executive Director Eric Anderson and former MAG Executive Director Dennis Smith. They stimulated, sustained and steered this project through several transportation elections and numerous rounds of determining funding priorities. It was their vision and stewardship that saw this project through to its completion.

And while we are discussing visionaries, we are naming this stretch of highway after one of the most iconic Congressional delegates for Arizona. 

Congressman Ed Pastor served Arizona for 24 years in Congress and served on the County Board of Supervisors before that.  He was instrumental in shaping the Phoenix metro area that we see today. Nearly every major infrastructure project in Arizona during his years of service was helped to fruition by Ed Pastor. 

So the next time you are driving on the Loop 202, let it be a reminder of the hard work put in by Congressman Pastor and know that you are driving on what 30 years ago was just a dream. 

Published January 28, 2020