The first portion of Interstate 11 opened with great fanfare in Southern Nevada last year.
It’s the highway that one day is supposed to link Canada to Mexico.
And while it might come as a welcome relief for Las Vegas-to-Phoenix commuters someday, not everyone thinks it’s such a good idea.
Kevin DeGood is the director of Infrastructure at the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington DC thinktank. He calls the project a waste of money.
DeGood said the Arizona Department of Transportation should be asking if there are ways to spend the $7 billion they've estimated it will cost in a more productive way.
“I think in the case of Arizona the answer is absolutely - yes,” DeGood told KNPR's State of Nevada.
DeGood argues that the biggest problem for Arizona is congestion in Phoenix.
“What they really have is not a long-distance, inner-city travel problem so much as a day to day mobility around metropolitan Phoenix and also around Tucson," he said, "I think that it would be much better for the state to spend those resources trying to provide people with alternatives to driving in their day to day work and not spend this money on peripheral edge highway that I think wouldn’t deliver very much value.”
Supporters of the I-11 project argue it will improve truck travel between Las Vegas and Phoenix, but DeGood said that improvement is not necessary, mainly because there are more passenger vehicles on the road than trucks but also because the infrastructure is already in place.
“In fact, Arizona’s existing state highway and interstate highway system already has more than enough capacity to handle the trucks that it has now and all the trucks that it may get over the next 20 or 30 years.,” he said.
DeGood said there are also environmental concerns about the project and not just because of the environmentally sensitive habitats the route could be going through.
"What kind development pattern does building yet another sort of edge highway mean for metropolitan Phoenix and Tucson in the long run?" he said, "I think we can say pretty conclusively that if you build a big interstate what you’re doing is further auto-based, auto-dependent travel and what you’re going to get is very low-density auto-dependent land use around that facility.”
He said providing more interstate contributes to the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.
“I think… state and federal and local governments all need to work in a coordinated effort to try to spend more to give people options so that they don’t have to drive for everything,” DeGood said.
Kevin DeGood, director of Infrastructure, Center for American Progress
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