TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - Arizona Department of Transportation officials held a public hearing at the Tucson Convention Center on Wednesday, to garner public input on a plan to build an interstate highway from Nogales to Las Vegas that would bypass Tucson and Phoenix.
The most recent proposal from ADOT has Interstate 11 running west of the Tucson Mountains, through sections of Picture Rocks and Avra Valley, and within half a mile of Saguaro National Park West.
Those who live in the path of the proposed highway are worried about being forced off of their land, while environmentalists are concerned about the road's effect on plants and animals on protected land.
Demonstrators made their voices heard ahead of the public hearing.
“Why anyone would think is this is a good idea is beyond me,” said Carolyn Campbell, part of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection. “This route would run within 1300 feet of Saguaro National Park, and less than 500 feet from Ironwood National Monument.”
“The Avra Valley west of Tucson is a place where the freeway will not help people in Tucson,” said Kevin Dahl, who represents the National Parks Conservation Association. “It will have huge impacts to the wildlife and those protected areas.”
“When people visit my house I tell them to listen, listen for the silence” said Bette Richards, who lives on the Picture Rocks/Avra Valley line. “But listen to the highway. That is what is going to be coming to Avra Valley.”
ADOT officials say the route will relieve a significant amount of truck traffic in Tucson and Phoenix and will create a fast route for trade from Mexico to make it to other sections of the southwest.
“We want to hear what people think so that when we make a final decision its the right decision,” said Tom Herrman, spokesman for ADOT. “It will be another year before we settle on a 200-foot wide corridor, and even then we have to do a secondary study to break that down to 400 feet that we would need for a freeway, so we’re a long way from any final decisions.”
Officials say they are at least five years from laying down any pavement for this project.
For more information on the project, click here. (http://i11study.com/Arizona/index.asp)