The Interstate 11 Tier 1 Environmental Impact Study team has quietly posted their Alternatives Selection Report and 2017 Agency and Public Information Meeting Summary on their website:
The ADOT timetable looks like they will make their “recommended alternative” choice over the summer, with another round of public meetings and comment in September.
There are no surprises—while eliminating one of the two very similar Avra Valley routes, it boils down to the route advanced by County Administrator Huckelberry, on the table as “requiring additional analysis,” or the existing I-10 corridor. I-10 has overwhelming support from area residents, the City of Tucson, National Park Service, and Pima Natural Resource Conservation District. Pima County, spoken for by the Country Administrator in continuing violation of County policy adopted by the Supervisors in Resolution 2007-343, continues to favor the Avra Valley route, as does the Town of Marana.
The San Xavier and Schuk Toak Districts of the Tohono O’odham Nation both adopted resolutions opposing I-11 near their communities.
“Nearshoring,” the planners’ dream of attracting American companies from China to Mexico remains a major economic justification for a new interstate, although you won’t see it mentioned until 2/3 of the way through the report.
The planners acknowledge that the Tucson Mitigation Corridor, established for wildlife movement when the CAP canal was built, “may be affected” by an Avra Valley route. There is a lot of speculation and projection about future population, employment and traffic, none of it fact-based.
While only providing their version of summaries from the public meetings and other comments, it is clear from the reports that public overwhelmingly opposes an Avra Valley I-11 route. The Tucson and Marana meetings generated 83 comments while all other meetings combined totaled 16. In fact, those two meetings provided 60 percent of attendees of the six meetings held.
There were 1165 responses to ADOT’s online survey, 408 emails, and 550 pieces of mail, including 529 cards signed by Picture Rocks neighbors opposing I-11 in the Avra Valley. Total comments were 2,278 – all to be posted sometime in the future. When they are posted our analysis will follow.
Several excerpts on public and agency “scoping” follow below. While listing media reports on the study, the online Arizona Daily Independent stories – critical of I-11 – were deliberately omitted from these reports; your reporter knows this because I sent them to ADOT and received acknowledgement of their receipt.
From the Alternatives Selection Report:
Public Scoping Input: During the 2016 scoping period, the general public also provided feedback on potential corridor option preferences, considerations, and/or constraint areas, including potential locations for a transportation facility or areas to avoid. Common feedback themes included:
- Preferences for both improving existing freeways and interstates and constructing I-11 as a separate/new facility
- Support for accommodating multimodal transportation options
- Concern regarding impacts to the Sonoran Desert environment
- Desire to minimize disturbances to undeveloped lands
- Avoid parks and conservation management areas (e.g., Coronado National Forest, Saguaro National Park West, Vulture Mountain Recreation Area, national monument areas, major rivers, etc.)
- Many concerns regarding environmental preservation and community impacts in Avra Valley
- Preserve opportunities for recreational visitor use (e.g., hiking, hunting, camping)
- Consider emergency access, such as the effect of dust storms on interstate mobility
- Use I-11 to bring economic benefits to surrounding communities
- Concern regarding property values and increased heavy truck traffic
C2.2 Summary of Public Feedback
The full summary of meeting activities and comments will be compiled in a separate Agency and Public Information Meeting Summary Report, to be posted on the project website, with e-blast and blog notifications when it is available.
An overview of the general feedback received includes:
• General support and agreement with recommendations for options to eliminate E
• Support for advancing existing corridor options into the Tier 1 EIS
• Many opposed to new roadway because of environmental, built, and social impacts
• Those in favor of new roadways cited congestion on existing highways as rationale
• Concern about potential for impacts on parks and recreation areas
Major themes regarding the corridor options by section include the following.
• Use existing corridors and infrastructure to minimize and avoid natural and economic environmental impacts and lessen capital costs.
• Opposition to corridor options C and D due to their proximity to the Avra Valley and Picture Rocks communities, local park and recreation areas (Tucson Mountain Park, Saguaro National Park), and wildlife; no clear distinction between the two options.
• Split preferences on corridor options E and F; provides alternate to a congested portion of I-10, however traverses the Santa Cruz River area; no clear distinction between the two options.
From the Agency and Public Information Meeting Summary Report:
City of Tucson
• Corridor options C and D are seen to impact the City of Tucson Water Properties and Facilities within the Avra Valley. Tucson provided data and other information to the study team to assess potential for impacts. Indicated a preference for utilizing I-10 (corridor option B).
National Park Service
• Requests that an analysis of impacts from additional facilities, such as freight rail, passenger rail, and utilities be utilized as part of the current process in determining routes.
• Strongly prefer that I-11 utilize the existing I-10 corridor (corridor option B).
Pima Natural Resource Conservation District
• Opposed to corridor options C, D, E, and F.
• Environmental Impacts – concerned that these alternatives would cause residential displacements, bring increases in noise, light, and air pollution in the northern end of the Avra Valley, and negatively impact outdoor recreation and environmental resources.
• Local Sentiment – Pima County voters approved an open space bond, and the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. The citizens did this knowing that their taxes would be significantly higher because of it, and the proposed CANAMEX (I-11) section through Avra Valley violates the values of the Pima County residents. It is incompatible both ecologically and from a quality of life perspective, with a rural setting. In addition, rural lands that had been eligible for zoning changes may no longer qualify.
Pima County – Administrators Office
• Any future I-11 Corridor would terminate at the Nogales Mariposa Point of Entry. As such, there are two fundamental routes to get there through Pima County: 1) along the I-10 /I-19 corridors; or 2) a new route generally through the Avra Valley. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
If the existing Interstate route is selected, roadway widening would be required with associated costs and urban socioeconomic impacts related to noise, access, and public safety.
• The route through the Avra Valley developed by Pima County [generally corridor option D] considers both cultural and environmental features and avoids Bureau of Reclamation lands with the exception of the area east of the Tohono O’odham Nation. If the Avra Valley route is selected, significant environmental mitigation would be required to ensure the route does not induce urban sprawl and mitigates for impacts to wildlife.
5.5.1 Section Specific Comment Summary and Analysis
220.127.116.11 South Section Corridor Options
• Support for expanding I-10 from Tucson to Phoenix.
• Support for I-19 upgrades.
• Opposition to any route through Avra Valley.
• Inadequate right-of-way between BLM Tucson Mitigation Corridor and Tohono O’odham Nation for a route through Avra Valley.
• Prefers alternate corridor west of Green Valley.
• Double-deck I-10 from Ina Road to Kino traffic interchange.
• A bypass to Tucson is needed due to high levels of current interstate congestion.
• Add a truck lane to I-10 to accommodate truck traffic and relieve congestion.
• Congestion on I-19 at border check point is a concern.
• Concerns about potential for adverse impacts on Avra Valley, including potential environmental and recreational impacts, quality of life issues, and traffic concerns.
• Put the effort into reducing traffic and utilizing more efficient and cleaner transportation options including electric rail to reduce air pollution.
• Concerns about existing dust storms in Manville Road area.
• All future roads must include under- and over-passes for animals.
• A new interstate route would have negative impacts on view sheds, natural quiet, dark skies and other wilderness values.
• There is a viable population of bighorn sheep that would no longer be able to migrate across their territory in Saguaro, Ironwood, the Tohono O’odham Nation and preserves to west including Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Kofa, and Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuges. Other large mammals including mountain lions, bobcats and deer would suffer from habitat fragmentation and increased harassment.
• The benefits of ecotourism should be considered and routes through valuable environmental areas avoided.
• Will create urban sprawl.
• Sensitive archeological resource concerns.
• The Central Arizona Project (CAP) Canal and Tucson’s water supply need to be protected from the pollution and hazards that interstate traffic would bring.
• Do not take homes and property and displace families by building a new route.
• A bypass of Tucson would cost jobs and reduce income for existing businesses along I-10.
• Noise walls will be needed in Green Valley.
• A new route is far more expensive than expanding an existing interstate.
Safety and Security
• Current high levels of congestion and truck traffic result in unsafe driving conditions.
• Congestion and back-ups on, and approaching, I-19 are not safe. Improvements are needed.
• An interstate through Avra Valley would become a drug trafficking route.