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.