Original sources: Arizona Daily Star and Las Vegas Sun
Tucson business and political leaders have endorsed the notion of having a new interstate run through the Tucson region, saying they fear the area will become economically irrelevant without it.
During an August 29 meeting of the Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance, state officials were urged to incorporate Tucson into a future proposal for Interstate 11, a trade corridor connecting Las Vegas to Phoenix and running south to Mexico.
North of the border in Las Vegas, an opinion in the Sun newspaper points out that Phoenix and Las Vegas are the two largest metros in the U.S. not connected by an interstate highway. The paper says that the I-11 concept has bipartisan, business and union support. No route through Vegas was cited, but the U.S. 93 corridor is often pointed-to as the logical route between the two metropolitan areas.
While the entire freeway will take decades to complete, the Nevada Department of Transportation starts construction on the Boulder Bypass in 2014, which is a major segment needed to develop I-11.
While not endorsing a particular route, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities Inc. say an interstate link from Phoenix that does not run through the Tucson region would be a crippling setback.
“If we get bypassed, all the companies that consider regional relocation will not consider us,” CEO Joe Snell said of TREO’s decision to endorse an I-11 route. “If we’re not part of the I-11, we’ll be irrelevant economically.”
The recovering economy in Mexico has prompted more trade activity through Arizona, and leaders are looking to capitalize on that growth by luring the distribution and logistics industry to the state.
Rothschild said people are starting to understand the potential benefits of a large distribution industry.
“Tucson is excited about and engaged in developing the Tucson region as a logistics hub,” Rothschild said. “There is fierce competition from nearby states. As such we need all hands on deck.”
Established last year, the Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance is a combined effort among the Arizona Department of Transportation, Arizona-Mexico Commission and the Arizona Commerce Authority under the direction of the governor.