- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - Crews knocked down the first of hundreds of Phoenix homes slated for demolition Thursday, marking the beginning of a long-planned freeway development.

A bulldozer hired by the Arizona Department of Transportation tore through a vacant house in the suburb of Ahwatukee shortly after 7 a.m. The single-family home with a Spanish tiled roof was soon reduced to a pile of brown and white rubble.

ADOT spokesman Timothy Tait said it will take several months to raze the nearly 200 properties in the construction path of the new Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway.

According to Tait, crews will spend two days’ of work on each house. They need to not only demolish it, but clear out the foundation, landscaping and swimming pools and lay down granite gravel. Workers spent Wednesday salvaging some materials from the properties.

ADOT has spent the last 20 years acquiring the properties - which include homes, businesses and industrial sites - ahead of construction that will start next year. The project led to several homeowners balking at the idea of having to move. The state is still encountering resistance from some who insist they won’t move. Tait said their reaction is “a normal part of the process” and that ADOT is in negotiations with these homeowners.

One of those homeowners is Kenny Edwards, whose current home is 100 yards from where the first house came down. Edwards said he will continue fighting against the freeway construction but is resigned to the fact that he and his family will be moving. Several neighboring homes are already vacant, Edwards said.

“You know a month or two ago, there was a family that you knew that lived there. It’s pretty disconcerting,” Edwards said. “It makes you realize you don’t really own the home.”

Edwards said his family, which includes a teenage daughter, will relocate to a house from a list of options offered by ADOT. But so far, he said, none of the homes compare to the one he is giving up.

The Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway is the final piece left in the Loop 202 system linking Phoenix suburbs in the west and east. It will consist of four lanes in each direction. The $1.8 billion project is expected to take four years and will start sometime in mid-2016.

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