By Luci Scott for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
A $600M, 16-mile stretch of interstate highway to connect Interstate 10 at Rita Road in Tucson with I-19 at Pima Mine Road is planned by Pima County.
The University of Arizona Science and Technology Park is at Rita Road and I-10, and a connection has always been needed between I-19 and I-10. The future interstate, called the Sonoran Corridor, also will create a southern entrance to the Tucson airport from Sahuarita and points south.
A rail line is being added across from the Nogales rail line, which is the only rail line from Arizona into Mexico.
“We’re connecting the rail line to the Union Pacific Sunset line by Rita Road,” said John Moffatt, director of Pima County’s strategic planning office.
“Our focus in this area is developing jobs and creating an industrial corridor,” he said. It’s an uninhabited area so there are no complications that can arise with homeowners nearby.
“The goal here is to create an industrial corridor that does not have those kinds of (homeowners) conflicts,” he said.
Three-thousand trucks a day drive up and down I-19 hauling produce alone, not to mention other truck travel. About 40 percent of those go east on I-10, and the new Sonoran Corridor will save the truckers 12 miles.
“It will also save a lot of congestion, slow traffic and wait time as the drivers get closer to downtown,” Moffatt said.
Another benefit is that as the industrial corridor is created, it will be focused not only on manufacturing but also logistics.
A freight-framework study was done a couple of years ago by MAG, PAG, and Central Arizona Governments (CAG). The report identified the region south of the airport as being an ideal import distribution and logistics area for the entire state, because of two interstates, two rail lines and an airport in the same vicinity.
“Our focus there is to connect all of that up and create this industrial area for employment; the county’s main focus is getting more employment into the region,” Moffatt said.
He hopes to get a federal designation for the Sonoran Corridor included in the federal transportation-funding bill this year. The designation would make the project eligible for federal funding for design and construction but is not a guarantee of funding. Moffatt expects that federal, state and local dollars will be needed.
For the Sonoran Corridor, Pima County partnered with San Xavier District of the Tohono O’odham Nation.
“We are still working out the details but the district and casino have been cooperative in setting up the alignment in the southern part by Pima Mine Road,” Moffatt said. That road was adopted by the State Transportation Board as State Route 410.
The highway is a foreign-trade investment since it will carry a lot of international trade to and from Mexico.