To explore the role of a potential I-11 corridor, the Arizona and Nevada Departments of Transportation are working together on the 2-year I-11 and Intermountain West Corridor Study. It will include detailed corridor planning of a possible Interstate link between Phoenix and Las Vegas (the I-11 portion), as well as high-level visioning for potential future extensions of the Corridor north to Canada and south to Mexico. Through the recent transportation authorization bill, (MAP-21) Congress recognized the importance of the portion of the Corridor between Phoenix and Las Vegas and designated it as future I-11, intended to be a new high-capacity, multimodal transportation facility connecting the two cities. Extended, it has the potential to become a major multimodal north-south transcontinental Corridor through the Intermountain West, connecting cities, trade hubs, ports, intersecting highways, and railroads.
The Corridor is proposed to include an upgraded highway, but could be paired with rail and other major infrastructure components—such as energy and telecommunications—to serve the nation’s needs in the West.
The Vision Began Years Ago…
The concept of an access controlled, high-capacity transportation facility connecting Phoenix and Las Vegas (with connections further north and south) has been around for decades, initiating with the CANAMEX corridor discussions in 1991. An approach for comprehensive corridor implementation was furthered by the Maricopa Association of Governments as a bypass route around the western and southern edges of metropolitan Phoenix, and further conceptualized through statewide planning efforts by ADOT to extend outside the state of Arizona. Nevada has been an equal partner with Arizona since the early 1990s, planning for a regional corridor with improved access between Las Vegas and Phoenix and a potential northern extension to Reno – creating a better connected Intermountain West with greater economic opportunities. Both states have already implemented various planning, design and construction projects for potential corridor components, with the most notable being the completion of the Hoover Dam Bypass and Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.
Developing a new north-south trade corridor through Nevada and Arizona could supplement the existing system and relieve freight congestion on I-5, one of only two (including I-15) continuous north-south Mexico-to-Canada interstate routes west of Texas. The CANAMEX corridor, established under the North American Free Trade Agreement, has been designated as such a parallel route, spanning the Western United States between Mexico and Canada through the states of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Montana. However, the CANAMEX corridor is composed of a myriad of existing Interstate corridors and state highways, and is not a continuous route due to a gap in the designation between I-10 and US 93. Implementation of the Corridor can fill this gap – allowing significant commerce, tourism and international trade opportunities across the Western United States.
For study purposes, the Corridor is divided into five segments: three segments between (and including) the Las Vegas and Phoenix metropolitan areas (the Congressionally Designated Corridor), and two high-level visioning segments for possible future extensions from Las Vegas to Canada, and from Phoenix to Mexico.
The Corridor Vision Summary is part of the first phase of the study and establishes the basis for the project.
The second phase will include the Corridor Justification Report, in which the preliminary purpose and need for the Corridor will be developed, existing and future conditions reviewed, and the economic context for the Corridor established. One unique element of this project is the development of a Corridor Business Case to help determine the benefits and costs of the proposed Corridor, and to identify possible funding scenarios and planning options for bringing it to fruition.
The third phase, Corridor Concept Development, will lead to the project’s recommendations. Alternatives will be developed and evaluated for the separate Corridor segments, the Corridor’s final purpose and need will be developed, the business case finalized, and implementation requirements outlined.
The Role of Transportation Corridors in Catalyzing Regional Economic Growth
High quality transportation corridors play a key role in stimulating economic activity throughout North America—especially in proximity to international trade flows. For instance, all along the corridors that link booming West Coast ports (Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, and Seattle) to cargo destinations, development has sprung up to support the resultant goods movement. Domestic trade has subsequently located on these established trade corridors to take advantage of the critical mass of low-cost facilities. Texas land ports of entry with Mexico provide another strong example. Significant infrastructure investment to enhance capacity and reduce delays has resulted in trade flows to and from Mexico approximately 10 times greater than those between Arizona and Mexico. The I-11 corridor has the potential to attract similar trade and economic activity to Arizona and Nevada.
Why the I-11 and Intermountain West Corridor is Needed
Utilizing the new opportunities provided by NAFTA, border regions across America have experienced strong economic benefits over the past two decades. In the Intermountain West region, lacking strong cross-border surface transportation connectivity, this activity has been notably muted. The I-11 corridor offers the opportunity to realize the full promise of cross-border economic integration for Arizona and Nevada. Congress has designated I-11 as a future Interstate between Phoenix and Las Vegas. Recent studies indicate that sustained transportation investment in the region, particularly for north-south corridors, will be required. The I-11 and Intermountain West Corridor ably address this need as summarized below.
Enable Economic Development
Transportation is a key enabler of economic development. As an example, in recent years, major infrastructure investments were made to increase capacity and reduce delays at Texas land ports of entry with Mexico.
Integrate the Economies of the Southwest Triangle Megaregion
Economic integration within the Southwest Triangle megaregion (Southern California, Sun Corridor, and Las Vegas) will require continuing investment in transportation. This megaregion, (particularly Phoenix and Las Vegas) is poorly served by surface transportation relative to comparable U.S. cities.
Capitalize on Mexico’s Growing Role in North American Manufacturing and Trade
The increasing role of Mexico in North American manufacturing and trade has the potential to add substantial economic growth and transportation demand to north-south transportation corridors in the region. This activity will be attracted to regions with availability of high-quality transportation facilities.
Support Economic Development Initiatives of Arizona and Nevada
The states of Nevada and Arizona both have economic development initiatives, focused on aerospace, life sciences, and other high-value manufacturing, which rely on high quality transportation corridors for movement of products and people. Their success will depend on continuing transportation investment to maintain competitiveness.
Prevent Congestion from Crippling Economic Competitiveness
Present growth trends suggest a significant increase in the region’s highways reaching unacceptable levels of congestion, threatening economic competitiveness.