Not through our backyard, even if it is 20 years from now.
That is the response of some Henderson residents who are concerned about a proposed route for Interstate 11 that would carve a path through some rural eastern parts of the city.
Sondra Rosenberg, transportation planner for the Nevada Department of Transportation, told the City Council and the audience in the packed council chamber on Tuesday that one of the I-11 corridors being studied would swing through the east Las Vegas Valley. This would include a rural stretch of Henderson and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area before connecting with Interstate 15 near Nellis Air Force Base.
However, she cautioned, the project is still in the early stages, and construction — no matter where the I-11 ends up being routed — is still as much as two decades away from construction.
“This is a very long-term process,” said Rosenberg, who is the Transportation Department’s project manager for the I-11 and Intermountain West Corridor Study. “We are just kind of just at the beginning of this … At this point we are very far from any real decision in terms of alignment.”
The department is accepting public comment on the proposed alignment study through Friday on its project website, www.i11study.com. The final alternative evaluation summary report should be finished by the end of July. At the conclusion of that study, Rosenberg said a closer look at all three proposed routes would be undertaken.
The process would then need to go through environmental studies, which can take years, Rosenberg said, before the project even gets to a design stage.
Mayor Andy Hafen echoed that timetable, but said the city asked the department to give Tuesday’s presentation so they and the citizens could be kept up to date on the project.
“This is the beginning of a process to look at alternatives,” Hafen said. “As soon as we discovered that they were discussing potential study areas and routes (through Henderson), we felt we needed to get some community input.”
Chuck Booker, president of the River Mountain Ranch Estates Homeowners Association, said the proposal is a “bone-headed attempt to destroy our pastoral way of life.”
According to the Transportation Department’s presentation, the corridor, including road alignment, can vary in width from 1 mile to 5 miles.
“No more horses, no more loop trail, no more open land to walk and enjoy,” Booker said in a letter to the City Council. “Just an interstate speedway to ruin our lives and destroy our way of life.”
Nearly 30 people turned in public comment cards for the council meeting, with everyone opposed to the proposed route through rural Henderson. Some did express relief that the project was further off than they originally understood.
The early phase of I-11 would connect Las Vegas and Phoenix, the two largest adjacent metropolitan areas in the United States without a direct interstate connection. The nearly 300-mile stretch would be a key segment in a route that would eventually be a north-south connect from Mexico to Canada, called the CANAMEX corridor.
But how the route cuts through the valley is what concerns the people of Henderson. There are three “recommended reasonable and feasible” routes through the Las Vegas metropolitan area: U.S. Highway 95 through downtown Las Vegas, the 215 Beltway through Henderson and Summerlin, and the route through rural Henderson.
The route that cuts through Henderson would be largely built from scratch through a low population area, not on existing interstates such as the 215 Beltway and U.S. 95. It could also bring economic vitality to areas along the route, including the stretch of the 215 Beltway that cuts through North Las Vegas.
Henderson is not the first area to have residents express concerns about what an I-11 through their area would mean to their way of life. Residents of Avra Valley, northwest of Tucson, Ariz., have objected to a plan to loop I-11 around the city in fear of losing night-time desert views. They also worry about increased traffic and urban sprawl.
Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3882. Follow him on Twitter @KnightlyGrind