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So far, save-the-ridges action has not expanded beyond the letter-writing and meeting-holding stages.

But rabble-rousers such as Gironda, a real estate appraiser by profession, and Goodman, whose profession appears to be full-time authority questioning, can reel off several potential strategies to halt or reroute the road. Gironda places a lot of hope in a supposedly precedent-setting case out of Texas, in which the state tried to build a freeway through parkland but was stopped by the courts.

Another possible trip-wire might be the toll road's effect on air quality, say the mountain watchers. The road will have to be cleared by an acronym hell of pollution-control authorities.

Considering the players lined up behind it, though, the project already has considerable momentum.

"They might find loopholes enough to get it done, I realize that," says Gironda. "But the public outcry afterwards and the serious impacts upon the Indian community out there, as well as any user of South Mountain Park, will be eternal. It's never going to end."
Ironically, a final glimmer of hope for the preservationists may be the cost of the cuts themselves. Extrapolating from excavation cost estimates made years ago by ADOT, Gironda says the solid-rock excavation could cost VUE 2000 as much as $30 million. While Hicks allows that it "sounds like it might be cheaper if we can avoid a major excavation" through the ridges--a point also noted by Phoenix City Councilmember Skip Rimsza before a recent meeting of the PMPC--Hicks adds: "I respect the rights of people who have their agendas and their causes. That's important.

"But once we start the process, it would be very damaging to the program to have somebody throw up a stink," he continues. "We want to sort through all those issues up-front, make sure they're all sorted out. "All we're doing is taking a path that ADOT has prescribed and trying to do the engineering and financing analysis. If they want to move it farther west and they want us to make that analysis, we can do that." Concludes the City of Phoenix's Tevlin of possible challenges to the toll road's right of way: "I think we've touched all of the legal bases on that question. There have been questions about the legality of the current alignment. I think all of that has been carefully researched, and there are no legal obstacles to it. There may be emotional obstacles to it.

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Dave Walker