Avra Valley Coalition organizer Albert Lannon brought the implications of a Cananmex Highway through the Avra Valley to the May 20 Citizens for Picture Rocks meeting. He detailed the effects on neighbors and wildlife, including the loss of jobs along the present Interstate 10 corridor and the negative impacts on health, tourism and water.
Following the money, Lannon said politics and real estate speculation linked supporters of the route championed by the Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.
“Public concern has forced the Interstate 11 planners to add an alternative to their route possibilities,” Lannon said.
During the I-10 Bypass debate in 2008, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) raised the possibility of double-decking six miles of I-10.
“It does everything they want at one-third the cost,” Lannon said. “Double-decking a bit of I-10 would save taxpayers nearly $2 billion. It would not, however, enrich real estate speculators and developers or their political allies.”
While a new highway may be years in the future, “we have to speak out now to save the Avra Valley, to save our communities,” Lannon said.
Huckelbery is actively seeking approval for a proposed 2015 bond issue to construct an I-11 link east of Interstate 19.
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Winding up a $2.5 million I-11 planning study ADOT held its last stakeholders’ meeting at the University of Arizona Student Union on May 21. The 24 attendees heard the case for I-11 along with plans to develop the image with marketing to win public and political support.
Funding sources have not been identified, but could come from toll roads, truck tolls, mileage-based user fees and increased taxes, according to planners. The next step for Arizona is a $60 million environmental assessment.
ADOT has requested part of that from the federal government.
Proponents say the new road would create 240,000 new jobs in Arizona and Nevada, but critics at the meeting said it looked more like American jobs were going to be exported to Mexico, tourism would decline, and that existing jobs along the present I-10 corridor would be lost.
A speaker from the Oro Valley business community spoke of the need to develop more trade with China that could be shipped to Mexico and trucked north.
“Integrated manufacturing” is the model, with possible good jobs in the Southwest and assembly in Mexico.
A final I-11 ADOT Planning public meeting is set for June 18, 6 p.m. at Tucson Electric Power’s Community Room, 88 East Broadway, in Tucson.
The Pima County Planning and Zoning Commission was slated to discuss the issue at the end of May.
Several attendees at the I-11 meeting wondered aloud how Huckelberry can push a project in defiance of a Board of Supervisors’ resolution opposing any such highway. Resolution No. 207-343, still in effect, states that the supervisors “Oppose any construction of any new highways in or around the county that have the stated purpose of bypassing the existing Interstate 10 as it is believed that the environmental, historic, archaeological, and urban form impacts could not be adequately mitigated.”