Building new interstate highways is very difficult for various reasons, especially the cost and the challenge of obtaining right of way. Expansion of existing routes is challenging enough, with Interstate 10 between Casa Grande and Chandler being a prime example. As that project inches forward, however, the need for an alternative route is obvious because of heavy traffic and the mess that occurs when there is a major accident.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Department of Transportation continues planning for I-11, which actually exists in a small part of Nevada. Arizona sees it as a route from the Mexican border to Las Vegas, and ultimately it could go to Canada. The route would cross western Pinal County and provide a big economic boost.
Comments have been received and opposition has surfaced from people in some areas that might be crossed, especially the Avra Valley area near Tucson. Some of the planning has focused on following existing roads, which would make the effort easier.
A former Central Arizona College professor, Sanjeev Ramchandra, has offered a suggestion for the route in the past and recently updated his proposal to ADOT. He is specifically interested in how the route would affect people in the city of Maricopa who commute to the Valley. Improvements on State Route 347 certainly will come, but an alternative is needed as well.
The state’s current plan has the highway starting in Nogales and following Interstate 19 before branching off at Sahuarita. Curving to the west around Tucson, it would go west of Marana, Eloy, Casa Grande and Maricopa, then south of the Sierra Estrella mountain range and past Goodyear and Buckeye before heading to Wickenburg.
Ramchandra says the route south of the Estrellas would not be used by Maricopans nor by truckers, who would continue to take I-8 and State Route 85 through Gila Bend and Buckeye.
His alternative would follow Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway into Maricopa, then go northwest to join Loop 202 at the exit for Gila River Vee Quiva Casino.
ADOT generally does a good job planning its highways, but the process takes a long time. That is the same for funding, which always is in short supply. Ramchandra has offered some good ideas, and ADOT says it will take them into consideration.
Area city and county officials have followed the process closely and remain involved because of its importance. Citizens should do the same, participating and letting their views be known at meetings and online. I-11 is likely to be important to Arizona and Pinal in future years.