Building A New I-11: Avra Valley Coalition Offers Pros And Cons

Map of proposed I-11 routes

Opinionated facts from the Avra Valley Coalition

With their $15 million I-11 Tier One Environmental Impact Study (EIS) now in its third year, the Arizona Dept. of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration (ADOT/FHWA) Study Team is expected to announce its choice between an Avra Valley route, improving the existing I-10 corridor, or the rarely-used No Build option, by the end of 2018, with public meetings and comment periods early in 2019.  While construction may be years away, choices made now will be set in stone.   All indications are that they favored an Avra Valley route all along, calling it part of a CANAMEX highway from Canada to Mexico.

The project, first introduced over a decade ago as an I-10 Bypass, then as Pima County Administrator Charles Huckelberry’s proposed addition to an ADOT-planned Las Vegas-Phoenix highway, has generated a lot of opposition, and not just from the thousands of people living in the Avra Valley.  When it was first unveiled, the Pima County Board of Supervisors, in Resolution 2007-343, opposed “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 Avra Valley Coalition, an informal, unaffiliated and non-partisan collection of individuals and groups opposed to I-11 in the Avra Valley, prepared a documented list of pro and con arguments:

PRO:  Without a new multi-billion-dollar I-11 highway, by the year 2040 travel time between Tucson and Nogales may increase as much as two (2) minutes.  (Source: Presentation by ADOT/FHWA I-11 Study Manager Jay Van Echo at Citizens for Picture Rocks meeting, 8/21/18).

CON:  Improving I-10 instead of building a new highway through the Avra Valley would cost billions less taxpayer dollars.  (Source: Arizona Dept. of Transportation State Engineer Jennifer Toth at State Transportation Board meeting in Tucson, December, 2008.)

PRO:  “Nearshoring:”  Building I-11 will attract American companies from China to Mexico where wages are now lower than in China.  (Source: ADOT/FHWA Purpose and Need Memorandum, 2/28/17*).

CON:  A new highway through the Avra Valley would bring air, noise and light pollution to tens of thousands of people. One eighth of Avra Valley residents are retirees, slightly less than 1/8 are military veterans, and 1/4 are under the age of 18. Four-fifths of the housing is owner-occupied. Dozens of families would be evicted.  (Source: Common sense!  See also comments from the Pima Natural Resource Conservation District in Agency and Public Information Meetings, Appendix C*;  Public comments about impacted families by the Pima County Administrator.)

PRO:  “Integrative Manufacturing:” I-11 will facilitate research and development in Nevada and Arizona, with manufacture and assembly in Mexico.  (Source: ADOT/FHWA Purpose and Need Memorandum, 2/28/17*.)

CON:  A new highway through the Avra Valley would result in vehicle emissions settling in Tucson Water’s Avra Valley CAP settling ponds, potentially threatening the aquifer.  Tucson would also lose jobs, businesses and tax revenue from the I-10 corridor.  (Source:  City of Tucson comments in ADOT/FHWA Scoping Summary Report, Appendix D, 1/25/17*.)

PRO:  I-11 will facilitate the shift of shipping and jobs from U.S. West Coast ports to the Mexican Port of Guaymas.  (Source: ADOT/FHWA Purpose and Need Memorandum, 2/28/17*.)

CON:  Tourism would be negatively impacted at Saguaro National Park, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson Mountain Park, Ironwood Forest National Monument, Kitt Peak Observatory, Old Tucson.  (Source: Pima Natural Resource Conservation District in Agency and Public Information Meetings, Appendix C.*)

PRO:  I-11 will enrich real estate speculators.  (Source: Avra Valley Coalition research based on Assessor records.)

CON:  Wildlife would be threatened and existing linkages imperiled to the point where some species would face extinction.  (Source: Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, in Appendix H, Agency and Public Information Meeting Summary Report, 11/30/17*.)

PRO:  I-11 will provide a taxpayer-funded free access highway to a planned private development:  What is now called the “Sonoran Corridor” (rejected in the 2015 bond election) was originally shown on maps prepared by Pima County as part of I-11 to link I-19 and I-10.  Instead of a straight east-west route, it drops south to provide a free access highway for Diamond Ventures planned Swan Southlands development.  (Source: I-11 map proposed by Pima County Administrator).

CON:  With over 3000 public comments in 2017, 89 percent opposed I-11 or any Avra Valley I-11 route, with only ½ of one percent favoring it.  ADOT/FHWA convened two “Stakeholders Engagement Groups” in early 2018, by invitation only, to try to bring the two sides together.  The two groups merged as the  I-11 Joint Stakeholder Community Planning Group, calling for I-10 improvements and declaring thatA bypass through Avra Valley is not acceptable.”  (8/3/18)

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(* Available online at  Click on Documents.)  See also recent ADI stories:


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Under the leadership of Editor in Chief Huey Freeman, the Editorial Board of the Arizona Daily Independent offers readers an opportunity to comment on current events and the pressing issues of the day. Occasionally, the Board weighs-in on issues of concern for the residents of Arizona and the US.