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Can federal infrastructure funding jumpstart I-11 construction?

ADOT I-11 plan.png
Posted at 6:00 PM, Nov 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-23 20:00:55-05

PHOENIX — The proposal to build I-11, a new interstate linking Mexico to the Intermountain West through Arizona, has a new map and political support but no funding or timeline.

The federal infrastructure package, signed into law by President Joe Biden this month, includes more than $5 billion in highway funding for Arizona.

Related: Where federal infrastructure funds will go in Arizona

The big-ticket item some politicians want is I-11.

"The construction of I-11 is really important as a corridor for trade, and that's very, very important for Arizona," said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, during an appearance with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg on Friday.

"If you just look at the proposed route, this is one of the most populous areas in America not already connected by interstate highway," said Buttigieg.

The federal government approved a preferred corridor for I-11 through Arizona last week, and ADOT released a map showing the 280-mile route from Nogales, through Tucson, detouring west of the Phoenix, and joining U.S. 93 northwest of Wickenburg to Las Vegas. Eventually, I-11 would head north through the Intermountain west to Canada.

Click here to see ADOT's interactive map of the I-11 planned route

Nevada has already built a stretch of I-11 near Las Vegas, but Arizona has built zero miles so far. There have been community meetings, completed a tier-one environmental study, and released the map with the 2,000-foot-wide proposed corridor.

An ADOT spokeswoman told ABC15, tier two planning would be next, but there is no money or schedule for that state to begin.

"The clock is stopped," said ADOT spokeswoman Kimberly Noetzel.

ABC15 asked Noetzel whether some of the $5 billion in new federal infrastructure funding could be used to continue I-11 planning. She said it was "too soon" to tell.

"ADOT is continuing to work with our federal partners to go through the bill and then examine how that money and where that money may be spent in Arizona," Noetzel said.

The concept of a high-capacity, north-south transportation route, such as I-11 has been considered for more than 25 years. In 2015, the U.S. Congress approved the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), which formally designated I-11 as an interstate highway through Arizona. This designation did not include funding for design and construction.

Got a news tip? Email ABC15 Investigator Melissa Blasius at Melissa.Blasius@abc15.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.