Las Vegas and Phoenix are the largest adjacent metropolitan areas in the United States not directly connected by an interstate highway. That fact alone is enough to justify the construction of a major freeway between the population centers and their more than 6 million residents.
However, if Nevada and Arizona expect to get an infusion of federal funds for the project, they’ll need better reasons than that. The draft study of the federally approved Interstate 11 corridor, prepared by consultants for the Nevada and Arizona departments of transportation, says the freeway would be an engine for economic growth throughout the Intermountain West region. Not only is the multibillion-dollar project justified, but according to the study, it’s absolutely necessary to keep up with population increases and growing international trade.
The completion of the study, released this month, is an important milestone in making the project happen. Far from laying new asphalt across the desert, I-11 would run along mostly existing highways. U.S. Highway 93 and Interstate 40, from Las Vegas to Wickenburg, Ariz., would get additional improvements. Then the interstate would run west and south around the Phoenix area, connecting with Interstate 10 near Casa Grande.
The study highlights “a lack of sufficient north-south capacity for existing goods movement or any increase in economic activity in Arizona and Nevada,” saying more manufacturing in Mexico will lead to further congestion. Additionally, the states’ economic development initiatives are focused on industries that need modern transportation corridors to speed workers and products to their destinations.
Arizona already has put hundreds of millions of dollars into I-11 corridor improvements, and Nevada’s share of I-11 mileage is comparatively tiny. If Washington takes too long to act, Nevada should be able to complete its I-11 upgrades without a penny of federal money. I-11 is a no-brainer and, behind the completion of Interstate 15 improvements through downtown Las Vegas, should be the state’s highest infrastructure priority.
Nevada taxpayers should read the study and offer comments of support at www.i11study.com. Then they should contact their state and federal elected officials and tell them they need to do everything they can to identify funding and accelerate construction of Interstate 11 on Nevada’s side of the border.