On the morning of September 29th, 2015, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) held a Pre-Bid meeting for the proposed South Mountain Freeway extension of the Loop 202 at the Mesa Convention Center. The meeting started at 9:00am and approximately 15 O’odham and other supporters were protesting outside.
This pre-bid meeting was a part of the process in a Public Private Partnership (P3) deal for the South Mountain Freeway. P3’s are a business deal between a public entity (ADOT) and private entity (corporations). The state cannot afford to build the freeway on its own so P3 deals are the state’s solution to that. There are three groups who might get the P3 contract; South Mountain Mobility Group, South Mountain Development Group, and Connect 202 Partners. The winning bid would result in one of these groups receiving some federal funding, but the private companies will take on the rest of the cost which is roughly 2.3 billion dollars. The P3 gives the private corporations some responsibility on design and maintenance, as well as over time the state pays them back with interest.
The protesters gathered in the front entrance holding signs, chanting, and singing O’odham songs. The group tried to enter the building but Mesa police officers and private security block the entrance. The protest forced attendees of today’s pre-bid meeting to exit out of another door, even as the protest continued to march, trying to find other ways into the building.“Our actions and presence today is in an example to the purposed corporations that it is wrong to destroy our sacred places,” said Deran Martinez, 25 from the Village of Vah KI. “It’s huge part of our culture (South Mountain) and we won’t go silently.”
Since this was a pre-bid meeting it’s more than likely there will be another in the coming months as ADOT’s construction date comes closer, which is currently scheduled for March 2016. It’s also possible the construction date could be pushed back again because of the lawsuits from PARC (Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children) and the Gila River Indian Community. Akimel O’odham Youth Collective will continue to provide updates on the future meetings and events of ADOT and P3 bidders, we are confident there will be another chance to target ADOT and these development groups. We will continue to oppose the construction of the South Mountain Freeway extension.
-Akimel O’odham Youth Collective