No I-11 in the Avra Valley

For the first time in its 15-year history, the non-profit community group Citizens for Picture Rocks voted to actively oppose a project rather than just providing information to area residents.  Nearly 60 neighbors voted unanimously August 15, 2017, in favor of a Board of Directors Statement of Policy worked out over the past several months.

Board Secretary Dorothy Banks made the motion “I move that Citizens For Picture Rocks adopt a position in opposition to any highway or freeway being built through Avra Valley.  The Board of Citizens For Picture Rocks shall convey this position  in opposition to the proposed Interstate Highway to our elected representatives and other interested governmental and non-governmental bodies.”  The motion was seconded by Leona Lansing.  The motion carried unanimously.

Citizens for Picture Rocks Statement of Policy Opposing Interstate Highway in the Avra Valley   August 15, 2017,  CONTACT: Della Grove, President,, 520-243-3661.

Citizens for Picture Rocks is a non-profit 501(c)(4) membership civic improvement organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in the community.  Our members have told us that they believe constructing Interstate highway I-11 through the Avra Valley will have significant negative impacts as laid out in Pima County Board of Supervisors Resolution 2007-343:   “… the Pima County Board of Supervisors opposes the 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.”

The Arizona Dept. of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration are in the middle of a three-year, $15 million, Tier One Environmental Impact Study for Interstate 11 as required by the National Environmental Protection Act.  Two of their three very similar alternative routes are through the Avra Valley and the third is along the existing Interstate 10 corridor.  There is always a “No Build” option as well.

Concerns have come from many directions, including about 1,000 comments from residents of Picture Rocks.  The City of Tucson worries about loss of tax revenue and tourism, and about the effects on their water supply.  I-11 will negatively affect tourism at Saguaro National Park, Tucson Mountain Park, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and Ironwood Forest National Monument.  Increased night light will hurt Kitt Peak observatory.  Arizona Game and Fish Dept., US Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, US Bureau of Reclamation, US Environmental Protection Agency and Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection are among those expressing concerns about closing off wildlife movement corridors and prefer using the already-disturbed I-10 corridor rather than endangering natural and cultural resources.

As County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry’s proposed Avra Valley route plan admits, with the Bureau of Reclamation’s Wildlife Mitigation Corridor on one side, established “in perpetuity” when the CAP canal was built, and the Tohono O’odham Nation’s Garcia Strip on the other, insufficient Right-of-Way would mean building an elevated highway along Sandario Roads in the Mile Wide Road area.

The thousands of families in the Picture Rocks – Avra Valley areas would be subjected to unsafe and unhealthy intrusions of hazardous cargo along with air and noise pollution, with probable increases in drug and human smuggling.  The rural peace of our neighbors would be gone forever with dozens facing eviction.  Truckers would have more miles to drive.

District 3 Congressman Raúl Grijalva told ADOT that “The proposed route of the Interstate would bring in new development, roads, traffic, and have a negative impact on dark skies, wilderness values and quality of life for residents of that community.”

Albert Lannon Venetri

L.D. 11 State Representative Mark Finchem pointed out to ADOT that expanding I-10 “is the least expensive option to increase capacity and improve safety for all…we will be taking on massive debt to build this roadway.”  State Senator Steve Smith and Representative Vince Leach had earlier told residents that they opposed any Avra Valley route.

In 2008, when a virtually identical Avra Valley highway was being pushed by real estate speculators as an I-10 Bypass, ADOT’s State  Engineer Jennifer Toth told the State Transportation Board that double-decking I-10 from Ruthrauff to I-19 would do everything ADOT wants at one-third the cost, saving taxpayers nearly $2 billion.

Citizens for Picture Rocks joins with those state and federal agencies, the City of Tucson, our neighbors, and with Friends of Ironwood Forest, Friends of Saguaro National Park, Sierra Club, Friends of Tucson Mountain Park, National Parks Conservation Association, Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, Sky Island Alliance, Avra Valley Coalition, Arizona Daily Independent News and many others who urge that ADOT turn its attention away from the Avra Valley, and instead look at the far-less-expensive or damaging.I-10 corridor alternative or the No-Build option.  We will work in coalition with any and all willing to protect our homeland.

We urge area residents to contact their legislators and say:

No I-11 in the Avra Valley!

About Albert Vetere Lannon 107 Articles
Albert grew up in the slums of New York, and moved to San Francisco when he was 21. He became a union official and labor educator after obtaining his high school GED in 1989 and earning three degrees at San Francisco State University – BA, Labor Studies; BA, Interdisciplinary Creative Arts; MA, History. He has published two books of history, Second String Red, a scholarly biography of my communist father (Lexington, 1999), and Fight or Be Slaves, a history of the Oakland-East Bay labor movement (University Press of America, 2000). Albert has published stories, poetry, essays and reviews in a variety of “little” magazines over the years. Albert retired to Tucson in 2001. He has won awards from the Arizona State Poetry Society and Society of Southwestern Authors.