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Interstate 11

Maryeileen Flanagan points out her home on the I-11 map. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A new interstate highway planned through Arizona will sweep through Hidden Valley, and residents are irate.

The Federal Highway Administration is seeking feedback on the proposed I-11 corridor. It has primarily been promoted as the first direct connection between Phoenix and Las Vegas, though it ultimately could link Mexico to Canada.

More than 130 people have joined the “Stop I-11 in Hidden Valley” Facebook group, and they have begun meeting to strategize opposition to what is being shopped as the preferred route. Thursday, a group of about 20 gathered in Linda Sullivan’s house, which is near of the freeway’s path.

The freeway corridor is 2,000 feet wide and would necessitate the demolition of occupied homes.

“Some people have built their dream homes out here,” Sullivan said.

“The big intention of this freeway is to connect Nogales all the way to Vegas,” said Maryeileen Flanagan, who has been watching the project for years. “There’s a huge amount of goods transported via truck. This really is about the trucking industry.”

Flanagan’s home is in the path of the “recommended” alternative, which follows sections of the “green” and “purple” routes. She built her own house 1996.

Nevada completed the first leg of its part of the interstate, from Boulder City to Lake Mead, last year. Such a highway has been discussed in one form another for 25 years but was not formally designated until 2015. Flanagan said some of the data and maps of Hidden Valley being used in the study are outdated, according to recent reports from the Arizona Department of Transportation.

As the planned freeway from Marana to Buckeye comes through the Maricopa area, it is divided into three alternatives. What is called the “orange” alternative follows Interstate 8 to Gila Bend and then cuts north to Buckeye and on to Wickenburg. That alternative, however, has mostly fallen out of discussion because of the distance.

Santina Johnson, who has ongoing battles with Pinal County, believes the “orange” is being ignored because Maricopa, Casa Grande and Pinal County are pushing it through Hidden Valley.

Hidden Valley residents gather in the Sullivan home to talk strategy.

The shorter alternatives, “green” and “purple” go through the populated areas of Hidden Valley, following a path along Barnes Road east to west, passing south of the Nissan proving grounds until it reaches Amarillo Valley Road, where it starts to run northwest and passes through the Palo Verde Regional Park. It would cross State Route 238 at Mobile and continue on to Buckeye.

Johnson said residents of the City of Maricopa “are being fed the B.S. that the I-11 will take traffic off the 347.”

Janet Hedgpeth said no one in the county government would care if residents of Hidden Valley dropped off the face of the earth. Johnson described the area as having high numbers of senior, low-income, disabled and Hispanic residents.

Several members of the group wanted to plan confrontations with Mayor Christian Price and other elected officials in Maricopa and Pinal County, even introducing a recall of County Supervisor Anthony Smith, but others said it was smartest to go straight to the federal level and cut off the funding.

“We also need to make sure those are people who have the potential to have some impact in our behalf,” Hedgpeth said.

Flanagan has reached out to U.S. Congressman Tom O’Halleran and U.S. senators Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally. Sinema’s office responded immediately and said the senator or one of her representatives would attend a future meeting in Hidden Valley.

“We need to focus on our baby steps to get to our goal,” Sullivan said.

The public comment period ends July 8. A decision on the final route is expected in early 2020.

Flanagan said it comes down to money, inferring Pinal County wants the highway only as a driver of economic development. The county, she said, is the second largest in the state but has the least amount of available land for development and to make revenue, “because we have so much reservation land, state land, federal land.”

“So, they are desperate to do something to generate revenue,” she said. “They have to do something, so they can stay relevant.”

“It’s a good thing that people get up in arms, but the politicians don’t really give a damn what we think,” said Joe Abodeely. “What you have to do is something that affects them. For instance: ‘You going to be running for office next time? I’m going to do everything I can to make sure you don’t get elected.’”

I11study.com/Arizona

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ADOT

The Arizona Department of Transportation is conducting an environmental impact study (EIS) to identify a potential 280-mile corridor for I-11 between Nogales and Wickenburg. The Tier 1 environmental review process considers a wide range of Build Corridor Alternatives, as well as a No-Build (do-nothing) Alternative.

Public hearings on the Draft Tier 1 EIS will provide information on the recommended corridor alternative and accept formal public comments via the comment form, verbally to a court reporter, and through three-minute verbal comments in front of a panel of study team members.

Public Hearing Schedule:

Monday, April 29, 2019 5-8 p.m.
– Palo Verde Energy Education Center
600 N. Airport Road, Buckeye

Tuesday, April 30, 2019 4-7 p.m.
– Wickenburg Community Center
155 N. Tegner Street, Wickenburg

Wednesday, May 1, 2019 5-8 p.m.
– Holiday Inn
777 N. Pinal Avenue, Casa Grande

Tuesday, May 7, 2019 4-7 p.m.
– Quality Hotel Americana
639 N. Grand Avenue, Nogales

Wednesday, May 8, 2019 3-8 p.m.
– Tucson Convention Center Ballrooms/Lobby
260 S. Church Avenue, Tucson

Saturday May 11, 2019 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
– Marana High School Cafeteria
12000 W. Emigh Road, Marana

Residents can review the Tier 1 Draft online or at the Maricopa Public Library, or purchase a copy at Impressive Imaging (44480 W. Honeycutt Road, Suite 102).

Public comments are due by May 31, 2019.

Formal environmental process now underway for Nogales-to-Wickenburg corridor

The I-11 sign was unveiled in 2014 near the Arizona/Nevada border.

With six public meetings scheduled in June and an opportunity for the public to contribute in other ways, Arizonans can help shape the next step in planning for the proposed Interstate 11 as the Arizona Department of Transportation moves ahead on a three-year environmental study for a corridor stretching from Nogales to Wickenburg.

The proposed corridor for I-11 would be just south of Maricopa. (See map of study area below.) The closest public meeting will be in Casa Grande on June 8.

Planned as much more than a highway, I-11 is envisioned as a multimodal corridor connecting Arizona with regional and international markets while opening up new opportunities for mobility, trade, job growth and economic competitiveness.

ADOT has opened a 45-day comment period allowing Arizonans to provide input on the I-11 study area, a process known as public scoping. It’s an opportunity to ask questions and share comments about topics such as potential locations for the I-11 corridor, environmental considerations, impact on wildlife habitats or cultural resources, and possible opportunities for other transportation modes, such as rail, that may be considered.

“The progress on the Interstate 11 study shows ADOT’s commitment to establish a key border-to-border corridor and a trade route with Mexico that will continue our state’s efforts to boost commerce, job growth and economic development,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “We have the support of partner agencies throughout the study corridor who realize the benefits that I-11 can bring in terms of competitiveness, regional and global connections, and business opportunities through this new freight and travel route.”

The recommended I-11 corridor would likely follow US 93 from the Hoover Dam bypass bridge south to Wickenburg. The 280-mile corridor that is the focus of the current environmental study begins in Wickenburg and runs west of the Phoenix metropolitan area and then south to the Tucson area and then Nogales.

Publishing a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act, kicks off the formal environmental study process, as ADOT works to prepare a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement to select an I-11 corridor alternative between Nogales and Wickenburg.

Six public meetings are scheduled in the study area:

Wednesday, June 8
Dorothy Powell Senior Adult Center – Dining Room
405 E. Sixth St.
Casa Grande

Wednesday, June 15
Buckeye Community Center – Multipurpose Room
201 E. Centre Ave.
Buckeye

Tuesday, June 21
Nogales High School – Cafeteria
1905 N. Apache Blvd.
Nogales

Wednesday, June 22
Arizona Riverpark Inn
777 W. Cushing St.
Tucson

Thursday, June 23
Marana Middle School – Gymnasium
11285 W. Grier Rd.
Marana

Wednesday, June 29
Wickenburg Community Center
160 N. Valentine St.
Wickenburg

All meetings run from 4 to 6:30 p.m., with presentations beginning at approximately 4:15 p.m. The same information will be presented at each meeting.

Those interested in commenting on the study but are unable to attend a public meeting are encouraged to visit the study website at i11study.com/Arizona and complete an online survey. All feedback, questions and comments will be considered part of the study, are entered into the project record and will help shape the proposed I-11 corridor.

In March, ADOT, in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration, launched the three-year study. Until now, a process called pre-scoping has included meetings with federal, state and local governments, resource agencies and planning organizations within the study corridor.

The first step in the study is developing an Alternatives Selection Report to assess a wide range of corridor alternatives and options, along with opportunities and constraints. A Draft Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement will evaluate in greater detail a smaller number of corridor alternatives, including segments that may advance as independent improvements or projects. There will be a no-build alterative as well.

Input from the public, communities and other stakeholders will contribute to these two reports, as well as a Final Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement that will list a selected corridor alternative.

In November 2014, the Arizona and Nevada departments of transportation completed a two-year feasibility study as the first step in the Interstate 11 process. In December 2015, Congress formally designated Interstate 11 from north to south in Arizona through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. While the designation doesn’t include funding, it does make the corridor eligible for federal funding in the future.
During the next three years, the public, communities and other stakeholders will have opportunities to comment through regular meetings, community events and other forums.

Right now, comments can be sent to:
* Online survey: i11study.com/Arizona
* Email: I-11ADOTStudy@hdrinc.com
* Toll-free bilingual telephone hotline: 1-844-544-8049
* Mail:
Interstate 11 Tier 1 EIS Study Team
c/o ADOT Communications
1655 W. Jackson St., Mail Drop 126F
Phoenix, AZ 85007

For more information about the I-11 study, visit i11study.com/Arizona.

I-11-map

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The I-11 sign was unveiled in 2014 near the Arizona/Nevada border.

Arizona and Mexico will further their collaboration on developing the key trade corridor connecting them under an agreement signed this week by Arizona Department of Transportation Director John Halikowski and Raul Murrieta Cummings, undersecretary of infrastructure for Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transport.

The memorandum of understanding, signed Tuesday in Mexico City, establishes a joint planning committee that will produce a study of ways to improve the corridor along Interstate 19 in Arizona and Highway 15 in Mexico. The primary north-south route in western Mexico and the western United States, the corridor feeds into Arizona’s port of entry system along with Arizona’s and Mexico’s highway systems.

The Arizona portion of the corridor will also serve as part of the anticipated route of Interstate 11, a multimodal transportation corridor from Nogales to the Hoover Dam bypass bridge. From there, I-11 will expand into northern Nevada, potentially reaching as far as Canada. Maricopa officials have been campaigning to have the new corridor come near the city’s boundaries.

“Our efforts to strengthen the Arizona-Mexico relationship are already resulting in great success, including the signing of this agreement between ADOT and the Mexican federal Ministry of Communications and Transport,” Governor Doug Ducey said. “These efforts will grow our binational trade and make our freight and trade corridor one of the most competitive in the global market.”

Mexico is Arizona’s largest international trading partner, with $16 billion annually in imports and exports. By working together to invest in transportation infrastructure on both sides of the border, Arizona and Mexico will realize opportunities for connectivity, economic development and job growth.

“This is the culmination of years of building the right relationships and a continuation of Governor Ducey’s commitment to fostering a closer working relationship with Mexico,” Halikowski said. “Governor Ducey has challenged us to think big, to think as a business, and with this study we will push our sphere of influence beyond the border, helping Arizona companies tap into new business opportunities in Mexico. This will also help us position our corridor as a viable, cost-effective alternative to the corridors connecting Mexico to the Texas border.”

Mexico has pledged $100,000 and ADOT $200,000 toward the first phase of the multiyear Arizona-Mexico Corridor Study, which will identify priority transportation projects, solutions to congestion and backups along the Arizona-Mexico border, ideas to make the corridor more efficient for multimodal transportation, and technologies to improve efficiency and reliability. The study will also focus on identifying clusters for job creation and economic development along the entire corridor.

“This one-of-a-kind study will set us apart from the rest and help us market our region throughout the world,” Halikowski said.

ADOT is a member of the Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance, which includes the Arizona-Mexico Commission, the Arizona Commerce Authority and the Arizona Office of Tourism, along with other partner agencies. The alliance focuses on creating economic development opportunities for Arizona and Mexico through investment in transportation infrastructure, partnerships and strategic planning.

“The Arizona-Mexico Corridor Study promises to bring greater understanding of the economic opportunities that exist for our region,” said David Farca, president of the Arizona-Mexico Commission. “In addition, it will help us raise awareness of Arizona’s strategic geographic position in the heart of an economically powerful mega-region that gives us a competitive advantage in the global market and makes Arizona a prime location to do business.”

Over the last few years, ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration, along with the U.S. General Services Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, have invested more than $250 million in improvements at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales ‒ improvements that benefit the overall corridor. Plans are moving forward to improve State Route 189 to enhance the flow of commercial truck traffic and to ensure international commerce can efficiently and safely travel between Arizona and Mexico.

During the meeting preceding the signing ceremony, Halikowski pushed for additional improvements to the Mexican side of Arizona’s ports of entry. Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transport reaffirmed its commitment of $2.2 billion for improvements to the Highway 15 corridor from Mexico City to the Arizona-Mexico border.

This week’s agreement promises to add not only needed infrastructure, but global opportunities.

“Arizona’s relationship with Mexico continues to grow and strengthen thanks to Governor Ducey’s efforts and ambitious trade agenda,” said Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority. “In 2015 alone, Mexico accounted for more than $9 billion in Arizona exports. Conducting this study is an excellent step in enhancing the competitiveness of the Arizona-Mexico Corridor. Doing so will facilitate increased cross-border trade and advance Arizona’s position in the global economy.”

The Arizona-Mexico Corridor Study is expected to begin later this year. For more information about the Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance, visit azttca.org.