Some Avra Valley residents are hoping the proposed Interstate 11 does not run through their backyards.
The I-11 highway would stretch 56 miles between Casa Grande and Green Valley. It’s part of the Canamex trade corridor meant to span the country from Canada to Mexico.
County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry has made the highway one of his top priorities. He’s pushing to lobby Congress for it and have the Pima County Bond Committee and Board of Supervisors back a $90 million proposal to use county bonds to help pay for Interstate 510, a related project on Tucson’s south side.
The proposed bypass to I-11 would run through Avra Valley.
Picture Rocks resident Albert Lannon is rallying community voices to get the county to go with a double-decker freeway through Tucson instead of the bypass, which he said would be disruptive to the community it crosses, as well as environmentally harmful.
Lannon said the bypass would bring noise, air and potentially hazardous cargo pollution through the area. He said a double-decker freeway would be cheaper than building the bypass, citing 2008 Arizona Department of Transportation figures that said a double-decker would cost between $700 million and $900 million.
The double-decker project, which is also being considered, would add another level above I-10 from Ruthrauff to I-19.
“They’re trying to ram it down our throats,” Lannon said of the proposal, adding that 47 families would have to be removed to make way for the road.
Lannon said he’s rounded up nearly 100 people who oppose the bypass.
“We intend to make ourselves heard,” he said. “The longer the process goes on without hearing from us, the more likely it is that this is the route they are going to dump on us. We are trying to head that off.”
Huckelberry said that the door is not closed to a double-decker idea.
“Anything is an option, sure,” he said. “That option will be studied. It probably is substantially more expensive than the Avra Valley option. If you look at the history of double-decker freeways, most of them have been torn down. One of them fell down, in San Francisco. They are very, very expensive.”
Huckelberry added that, by some estimates, double-decker freeways cost between $500 million and $1 billion per mile. He expressed concerns over the logistics and safety of the option.
“The Avra Valley option is more feasible than a double-decker freeway,” Huckelberry said. “All we’ve done is prove that it can be located as sensitively as possible, and as far away from as many people as possible.”
Huckelberry said the federal government will conduct location studies, and that there will be “literally hundreds of public hearings” before a decision is reached.
Huckelberry said he is sensitive to Avra Valley residents’ opposition.
“People have legitimate concerns. That’s the purpose of the public process,” he said, adding that he does not like the Avra Valley option to be termed a “bypass.”
“It’s really the wrong connotation,” he said. “The correct connotation is it’s really a more efficient trade corridor.”
Routing through traffic away from the city would greatly reduce stress on inner-city I-10, Huckelberry said.
“Our position from the beginning on this is that we will be heard,” Lannon said. “I think we have been heard. Whether or not we’re heard in the future depends on our activity.”