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Final route for the proposed I-11 selected
  • Updated

PHOENIX — After more than five years of study, authorities have selected the preferred route for the proposed Interstate 11 that would take the future freeway near Hidden Valley southwest of Maricopa and south of Casa Grande.

State and federal transportation officials announced Monday they have formally selected a corridor in southern and central Arizona for construction of Interstate 11, a proposed new freeway that would link the U.S.-Mexico border and Las Vegas.

The chosen 2,000-foot-wide corridor stretches 280 miles northward from the U.S. Mexico border to Wickenburg while skirting metro Phoenix’s west side. If planning and actual construction of proceeds, I-11 would be built along a 400-foot route within the corridor.

Casa Grande City Manager Larry Rains said the advancement of the I-11 corridor project further enhances Casa Grande’s connectivity and market access to Mexico, Las Vegas and Canada, benefiting manufacturing and logistics companies.

“The Selected I-11 Corridor Alternative is ideally situated adjacent to a land use area that has been identified as Industrial and Manufacturing in our 2030 General Plan,” Rains said in a statement. “This is just one of many reasons why companies choose the city to do business, making us the heart of the Arizona Innovation and Technology Corridor.”

Maricopa Mayor Christian Price was pleased that the project continues to move along.

“It’s a good thing, projects start as lines on a map before they become a reality,” Price said. “It’s a big deal, it’ll connect people directly to the highway, it’ll increase trade with Mexico, it’s good for the future, it’s good for the economy by increasing billions in trade.”

Portions of I-11 would use existing freeways, such as I-19 between Tucson and Nogales. A short portion of I-11 has been built near Las Vegas.

As envisioned by planners and supporters, I-11 could eventually extend northward to Canada.

The study process included technical analysis and input from communities and stakeholders. The publication of this decision document marks a major milestone as the final step in the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement process for this proposed highway corridor.

The concept of a high-capacity, high-priority north-south transportation facility that connects U.S. markets to Canada and Mexico through the western U.S. has been considered for more than 25 years. In 2015, Congress approved the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act, which formally designated I-11 as an interstate highway through Arizona and reinforced the concept for I-11 that had emerged from previous Arizona Department of Transportation studies. This designation did not include funding for design and construction.

However, with the passage of the $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill, officials promoting the freeway say there could be funding available to make the interstate a reality.

Scott Higginson, executive director of the Interstate 11 Coalition, is excited with the prospects.

“President Biden’s signature of the bi-partisan infrastructure bill is a monumental moment for the American people and for Arizonans as the bill provides an opportunity for our state to receive significant federal funding, previously unavailable, to support the next stage in the development of Interstate 11,” Higginson said in a statement. “This critical new corridor connecting Mexico, Phoenix and Las Vegas is a highway of national significance and has been a top priority for Arizona leaders. Interstate 11 will bring new benefits and economic growth by providing statewide increases in commerce, trade and tourism to Arizona while relieving congestion in downtown Phoenix as well as along I-10 and I-17.”

The Record of Decision was prepared by the Arizona Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration and was completed in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

The Selected Corridor Alternative is the same as the Preferred Corridor Alternative outlined in the Final Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement published on July 16, 2021. The 2,000-foot-wide Selected Corridor Alternative is the area within which the proposed I-11 facility could be built.

For I-11 to advance as a construction project, several additional steps would be required. These steps would include NEPA approval, identifying funding and conducting specific, project-level Tier 2 NEPA studies of priority corridor segments. It is during the Tier 2 process that the Selected Corridor Alternative would be narrowed to a maximum 400-foot-wide highway alignment, or route. Based on need and purpose, these segments would focus on smaller and shorter sections of I-11 and not the entire 280-mile corridor. Currently there are no plans or funding available to initiate these Tier 2 studies.

The I-11 Tier 1 environmental study began in 2016. Formal public comment periods were held in 2016, 2017 and 2019, with a 30-day public review period for the Final Tier 1 EIS from July 16 through Aug. 16, 2021. A total of 18 public meetings and hearings were held throughout the five-year study process to inform community members about the study, engage with them and listen to their feedback, and document their questions and comments for the public record.

The Tier 1 study includes more than five years of technical analysis; coordination with study partners such as cooperating agencies, participating agencies and tribal governments; and the review and consideration of public input received at study milestones. All of this information informed the decision identifying the Selected Corridor Alternative documented in the Record of Decision.


Business_and_technology
featured
New CG restaurant dedicates a wall to veterans
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CASA GRANDE

Photos of troops in uniform, flags, military medals, pins, uniforms and newspaper articles line the wood-paneled wall at the new Texas Roadhouse restaurant, which opened Monday on Florence Boulevard.

The veterans appreciation wall encompasses much of the restaurant’s waiting area and aims to be a special tribute to those who served their country throughout the years.

“We’re really proud to display these items in the restaurant,” said Casa Grande Texas Roadhouse Manager Eddie Rouge. “Every item on this wall is very meaningful. I love my community and I know there are a lot of veterans in Pinal County.”

Veterans from across Pinal County donated items for the wall, including those who served in various conflicts.

Submitted 

Area veterans donated personal items to Texas Roadhouse for a special wall paying tribute to the men and women of the military.

The restaurant chain is a supporter of veterans and veteran causes. The Casa Grande restaurant staff includes several veterans.

“To some extent all Roadhouse restaurants have wall space dedicated to veterans, but ours is much more extensive than the others I’ve seen,” Rouge said.

Many of the donated items were framed by area resident Leola Hawkins, a Marine Corps veteran.

John Carter, commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Coolidge, was among those who helped collect the items for the wall. He donated several medals and an ammunition belt from his days serving on a submarine in the U.S. Navy.

The Coolidge VFW donated a flag that had flown in battle.

“I felt honored that they thought of us,” Carter said.

Several area veterans and families of veterans responded when Carter asked for items to be donated. He’s still working with a few other veterans, hoping to encourage them to also donate their items to the effort.

“I think for some there is a certain amount of nostalgia when turning over these items that they brought home from their time in the service,” Carter said. “But they like knowing that it’s not just going to be sitting in an attic anymore but will be put in a place where it can be appreciated.”

Some of the items hanging in the restaurant were collected by Roadhouse server Noah Malakan, including one of his cousin who died in battle, earning a Purple Heart.

One of his neighbors donated a uniform that his father had worn in the Korean War. A donated helmet has a bullet hole in the front.

“When I look at that wall, I feel privileged that I have a chance to work at a job and I get to go to sleep at night feeling safe because there are people out there, putting on a uniform every day — and they don’t ask for nothing in return,” said Malakan, who served for several years in the Air Force.

The veterans’ tribute wall not only gives people something to look at while they wait for seating, it also gives them a better appreciation for the jobs military men and women do, he said.

Looking at the items, he said, made him realize how many military men and women do not return home to their families.

“We shouldn’t take our freedom for granted,” Malakan said. “We should always remember the sacrifices others have made for the luxuries we have.”

Those who want to donate items may contact Carter at the Coolidge VFW, 520-251-5766.

“I’m not sure how many more items they need, but if they run out of room, we have a military museum here in Coolidge that can use the items too,” he said.


Politics
breaking top story AP
House censures Rep. Gosar for violent video in rare rebuke
  • Updated

WASHINGTON — The House voted Wednesday to censure Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona for posting an animated video that depicted him killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with a sword, an extraordinary rebuke that highlighted the political strains testing Washington and the country.

Calling the video a clear threat to a lawmaker’s life, Democrats argued Gosar’s conduct would not be tolerated in any other workplace — and shouldn’t be in Congress.

The vote to censure Gosar and also remove him from his House committee assignments was approved by a vote of 223-207, almost entirely along party lines, with Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois the only Republicans voting in favor.

Gosar had deleted the tweet days ago amid the criticism, but he retweeted the video late Wednesday shortly after the vote.

He showed no emotion as he stood in the well of the House after the vote, flanked by roughly a dozen Republicans as Speaker Nancy Pelosi read the censure resolution and announced his penalty. He shook hands, hugged and patted other members of the GOP conference on the back before leaving the chamber.

Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the censure an “abuse of power” by Democrats to distract from national problems. He said of the censure, a “new standard will continue to be applied in the future,” a signal of potential ramifications for Democratic members should Republicans retake a majority.

But Democrats said there was nothing political about it.

“These actions demand a response. We cannot have members joking about murdering each other," said Pelosi. “This is both an endangerment of our elected officials and an insult to the institution.”

Ocasio-Cortez herself said in an impassioned speech, ”When we incite violence with depictions against our colleagues, that trickles down to violence in this country. And that is where we must draw the line.”

Arizona Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran said the censure was appropriate.

“Videos depicting violence against fellow representatives and the president are not funny or appropriate,” O’Halleran said in a statement after the vote. “Worse, they disrespect the office Rep. Gosar holds and the Arizona taxpayers who sent him to Washington to fix problems in their communities.”

Unrepentant during tense floor debate, Gosar rejected what he called the “mischaracterization” that the cartoon was “dangerous or threatening. It was not.”

“I do not espouse violence toward anyone. I never have. It was not my purpose to make anyone upset," Gosar said.

He compared himself to Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first Treasury secretary, celebrated in recent years in a Broadway musical, whose censure vote in Congress was defeated: “If I must join Alexander Hamilton, the first person attempted to be censured by this House, so be it, it is done.”

The decision to censure Gosar, one of the strongest punishments the House can dole out, was just the fourth in nearly 40 years — and just the latest example of the raw tensions that have roiled Congress since the 2020 election and the violent Capitol insurrection that followed.

Democrats spoke not only of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection, but also the violent attacks that have escalated on both parties, including the 2017 shooting of Republican lawmakers practicing for a congressional baseball game and the 2011 shooting of former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords as she met with constituents at an event outside a Tucson grocery store.

Republicans largely dismissed Gosar's video as nothing more than a cartoon, a routine form of political expression and hardly the most important issue facing Congress.

Yet threats against lawmakers are higher than ever, the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police told the Associated Press in an interview earlier this year.

The censure of Gosar was born out of Democratic frustration. Over the past week, as outrage over the video grew, House GOP leaders declined to publicly rebuke Gosar, who has a lengthy history of incendiary remarks. Instead, they largely ignored his actions and urged their members to vote against the resolution censuring him.

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida said, “I would just suggest we have better things to do on the floor of the House of Representatives than be the hall monitors for Twitter.”

The resolution will remove Gosar from two committees: Natural Resources and the Oversight and Reform panel, on which Ocasio-Cortez also serves, limiting his ability to shape legislation and deliver for constituents. It states that depictions of violence can foment actual violence and jeopardize the safety of elected officials, citing the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as an example.

Gosar is the 24th House member to be censured. Though it carries no practical effect, except to provide a historic footnote that marks a lawmaker’s career, it is the strongest punishment the House can issue short of expulsion, which requires a two-thirds vote.

Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, was the last to receive the rebuke in 2010 for financial misconduct.

It would also be second time this year the House has initiated the removal of a GOP lawmaker from an assigned committee, the first being Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

Gosar, a six-term congressman, posted the video over a week ago with a note saying, “Any anime fans out there?” The roughly 90-second video was an altered version of a Japanese anime clip, interspersed with shots of Border Patrol officers and migrants at the southern U.S. border.

During one roughly 10-second section, animated characters whose faces had been replaced with Gosar, Greene and Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., were shown fighting other animated characters. Gosar’s character is seen striking another one made to look like Ocasio-Cortez in the neck with a sword. The video also shows him attacking President Joe Biden.

Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., whose receipt of repeated death threats has required her to spend thousands on security, said Gosar has not apologized to her. She singled out McCarthy for not condemning Gosar.

“What is so hard about saying this is wrong?” Ocasio-Cortez said. “This is not about me. This is not about Representative Gosar. But this is about what we are willing to accept.”

This is not the first brush with controversy for Gosar, who was first elected in 2010’s tea party wave. He has been repeatedly criticized by his own siblings, six of whom appeared in campaign ads supporting his Democratic opponent in 2018.

Earlier this year Gosar looked to form an America First Caucus with other hardline Republican House members that aimed to promote “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” while warning that mass immigration was putting the “unique identity” of the U.S. at risk. He’s made appearances at fringe right-wing events, including a gathering in Florida last February hosted by Nick Fuentes, an internet personality who has promoted white supremacist beliefs.

He has also portrayed a woman shot by Capitol police during the attack on the Capitol as a martyr, claiming she was “executed.” And he falsely suggested that a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was instigated by “the left” and backed by billionaire George Soros, a major funder of liberal causes who has become the focus of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

———

Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Farnoush Amiri contributed to this report.


Area_news
top story
Casa Grande's police fleet affected by supply chain shortages
  • Updated

CASA GRANDE — The availability of many goods and services has been disrupted by supply chain shortages, and now that includes police vehicles.

During its meeting Monday, Nov. 15, the Casa Grande City Council approved the purchase of nine police trucks and two vans for just over $700,000. However, officials acknowledged uncertainty over the exact models and timeline for their arrival due to the shortages.

“The city is facing supply chain shortages, same as everyone is in the nation,” said City Manager Larry Rains. “We’re being told we won’t get all the vehicles until 2023; ultimately as a staff we are working as diligently as we can to replace vehicles that need to be replaced.”

Six of the nine vehicles were supposed to come last year but were already delayed due to COVID impacts; the city will accept either Ford-150 Crew Cab Responder 4x4 or 2x2 trucks, depending on what is available.

In better news, the second and final approval of the Kohler Co. manufacturing plant agreement passed without public comment, and council members reiterated their enthusiasm for the project.

Councilman Matt Herman noted that he heard a radio news segment about the Kohler plant while he was driving to the council meeting.

“I heard about what I was doing tonight,” Herman joked.

The city also approved a consulting services contract with PROS Consulting Inc. for an update to the Community Services Master Plan. The plan was last revised in 2007, and Mayor Craig McFarland noted that since that time, many objectives of that version have since been completed.

“I’m happy to see we’re doing this, it’s been so long,” said Councilwoman Lisa Navarro Fitzgibbons. “People talk about open space and parks, and I’m hoping we can go into some specific neighborhoods to meet the diversity of the community.”

The consulting group will help provide data analyses and facilitate the public input process. Herman said that the city’s Youth Council was also hoping to be involved.

With the federal bipartisan infrastructure package signed in Washington, McFarland said the city would closely monitor which grants or funding pools could apply to local projects.

During the public comment period, resident Nancy Wood, who has been attending council meetings to raise concerns about protecting wild or open natural spaces, pointed out an example of a development she thought was exemplary: the build-to-rent Hancock-Cottonwood neighborhood that will be part of the G Diamond Ranch area.

“I like what they are planning and appreciate their consideration for wildlife,” Wood said. “Please consider that the remaining portion of G Diamond Ranch still has space for the burrowing owls.”


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