Recently Pima County resident Albert Lannon, in an article for the Arizona Daily Independent, analyzed emails from County staff, private citizens, and other officials regarding I-11. Lannon has led the fight against the highway proposal put forth by County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.
In an appearance on the James T Harris Show on KQTH last Thursday, Lannon discussed his article and what actions the public can take to protect themselves from the job killing roadway and the County supervisors who are allowing backroom manuevers by unelected interests.
In 2007, the Board of Supervisors went on record against the project for multiple reasons. However over the years the supervisors have forgotten their promise. y have since ignored their original claims and going back to 2008 the first steps into making the I-11 a reality started to gain movement.
Lannon told Harris, “There were over 100 people there to ask questions about the bypass, who had asked to speak and Si Schorr, who was chairing the meeting. He rammed through a vote to approve a $3 million major investment study about the bypass without hearing from a single person. That provoked a near riot. They had a recess, called in the cops and finally it was negotiated that five people could speak in opposition to their proposal and that was the Saguaro National Park, Arizona Fish and Game, the US Bureau of Reclamation (which administers a wild life mitigation corridor that was established when the CAP Canal was built) and [filled by] two citizens.”
Lannon was one of those citizens who spoke out against the plan during that meeting in 2008. However, the vote remained unchanged. The study however did not proceed due to the Recession which made it impossible for the $3 million to be collected. The bypass morphed into what is now I-11.
The I-11 project started as a link between Vegas and Phoenix, but other groups – along with Chuck Huckleberry – decided it was crucial to have the new highway go all the way through Southern Arizona to Nogales.
Lannon explained to Harris that the State Department of Transportation took years of study and several millions of dollars selling what they call integrative manufacturing. A term, according to Lannon, used to hide that it would steal jobs from people in the state.
“They looked at near shoring, attracting American companies from China to Mexico where wages are expected to be lower than China. They talked about expansion of the Port of Guaymas and stealing American jobs from the west coast to Mexico. At that point it became much more than an Avra Valley, not in my backyard kind of issue. I mean I-11 in Southern Arizona is not in the best interest of the people.” Lannon stated. “ In the Avra Valley we have a valley that has been populated for thousands of years. It has wonderful archaeological sites. Big horn sheep. Communities, Communities that live on dirt roads because that is the way it is out there and they are going to destroy it. Putting a freeway through it. Putting toxic fumes, hazardous cargo through there would make a mess of it. Huckleberry says that 47 families would be directly affected. [He] has not named them.”
What is now being dubbed the “Huckleberry Highway” would cut through 1500 acres owned by Mesa real estate speculator Wil Cardon. Cardon recently ran for Secretary of State with Don Diamond on his campaign committee. According to Lannon, a map made by Pima County staff of the proposed I-11 it shows that there was an eastern leg between I-10 and I-19 that was labeled I-11 and later renamed the Sonoran Corridor. The project was allegedly developed to help retain Raytheon. However the Sonoran Corridor does not go east to west, reports Lannon. Instead it drops south to benefit a 3,000 acre plan development held by Don Diamond called “South Lands.” It then goes west to connect with I-19 and then to the “Huckleberry Highway’s” Avra Valley route.
As of now Lannon and a fellow Avra Valley resident Robin Clark are pushing a petition online to put as much of a stop to the proposed plan as possible, click here to sign. Currently it is nearing a thousand signatures and most of those came from the ADOT public meetings on the I-11 project including the Tohono O’odham Nation as well as ranchers who have land in the way of the highway.
These people’s homes and ways of life can be saved and a better plan is available, says Lannon. He told Harris that there are other plans which could save billions of taxpayer dollars, including a simple double decking of six miles of existing I-10 and I-19 sections.
Lannon knows that a petition isn’t going to stop this project. He says the only way to truly do that is for people to go out and vote for those candidates who aren’t currently sitting in Huckleberry’s backroom meetings.