Flake, McCain supporting Interstate 11 plan - Tucson Local Media: Desert Times

Flake, McCain supporting Interstate 11 plan

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Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 4:00 am

While U.S. Senators John McCain, R-AZ and Jeff Flake, R-AZ recently announced their support for the proposed Interstate 11 and Intermountain West Corridor, local officials and the Arizona Department of Transportation say funding has not yet been identified to carry out the project, which is expected to cost billions of dollars.

For the project, ADOT partnered with the Nevada Department of Transportation in developing a two-year I-11 feasibility study that is set to wrap up this summer. The proposed corridor would run from Mexico north through Nevada, connecting Phoenix and Las Vegas. Future plans could see the highway stretch north all the way to Canada. While no specific route is set in stone, ADOT officials say the route would likely follow the U.S. 93 corridor from Wickenburg to the Hoover Dam Bridge.

Laura Douglas, spokersperson for ADOT, said because of the project’s immaturity, there is no timeline for construction. Once the project is closer to construction, it would be placed in ADOT’s Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program, and funding would then be allocated for it. But at the moment, officials say they haven’t even been able to determine a method of funding for the project’s next step – an Environmental Impact Statement expected to cost approximately $60 million. The study would look at how the corridor could affect environmentally sensitive lands.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said he is confident the highway could be accomplished without a substantially negative impact on sensitive lands, but many, like Avra Valley resident Albert Lannon, say county officials are overlooking more viable alternatives such as double-decking Interstate 10 or other multimodal options.

Feedback is still filtering in from a handful of public meetings, including one that was held on June 18 in Tucson.

About 80 people from the public participated in the meeting, many of them demonstrating concerns about the interstate’s passage through the Avra Valley area, where they say a highway would damage environmentally sensitive and historic lands, and increase drug smuggling and traffic through what has become known as a quiet area.

Nonetheless, U.S. lawmakers like Flake and McCain say they see a potential benefit in developing a corridor that would ultimately connect Mexico to Canada.

“Arizona has seen incredible growth in population size and across industries, and we need to ensure our infrastructure fosters future economic growth, international trade and job creation” said McCain in a statement. “This amendment conveys the importance of the future Interstate 11, including a route that continues all the way to Arizona’s southern border. The highway would be vital to unlocking our state’s economic potential and to connecting Arizona’s communities and economy to major domestic and international trade partners.”

In a bipartisan move, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. has aligned with Flake and McCain in supporting the interstate.

Gov. Jan Brewer said she is pleased to see lawmakers on both sides of the aisle working toward a common vision of increased economic opportunities.

“Not only will Interstate 11 create jobs in Arizona and Nevada, it also will integrate and increase the global competitiveness of the entire Southwest region,” said Brewer. “I am very pleased to see strong bipartisan support at the local, state and federal level of this significant economic initiative.”

Two additional public meetings were recently held in Phoenix and Las Vegas. Public comment also includes a month-long virtual meeting at www.i11study.com. The virtual meeting allows for public comment through July 18.

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