The Coalition has been involved in commenting on the proposal for a new southern Arizona federal highway, Interstate 11, for a decade. We first commented on the Corridor Justification Study in July 2013. As the project studies further progressed, the federal and state transportation agencies were seemingly bent on building a new freeway through the Sonoran Desert west of Tucson. However, you responded en masse, and by the time the Tier 1 (of 2 tiers) Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was complete, thousands of Tucsonans had registered our adamant opposition to this proposal, which would have impacted multiple protected parks – from Saguaro National Park and Ironwood Forest National Monument to our beloved Tucson Mountain Park – and sever wildlife movement throughout Avra Valley. Because of this overwhelming response, the federal agency partially backed off of pushing the western route, and instead included an I-10 “co-location” option, with both options going forward to a Tier 2 EIS.
Where is this now? The Coalition filed a lawsuit in April 2022, citing the failure of the federal transportation agency to fully consider the importance of the parks, and the direct and indirect impacts this freeway would have on the critical and sensitive resources of these lands. They also failed to follow the US Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, which necessitates a sign-on from other agencies to bisect certain protected areas, in this case the Bureau of Reclamation Tucson Mitigation Corridor. The Coalition’s lawsuit was filed in partnership with the Center for Biological Diversity, Tucson Audubon Society, and Friends of Ironwood Forest. The suit has been assigned to federal court judge John Hinderaker in Tucson.
The case has not been decided, as both parties filed for extensions of the deadlines for responding to documents. Most recently, the judge has given the federal government (defendants) until October 19 to respond to our (plaintiffs) latest filing. In summary, the federal government has asked the judge to throw out our lawsuit, and of course, we disagree and have filed a response to that effect.
As to funding for Tier 2, the Arizona legislature passed a bill that provides funding for the next round of studies, but only for the section in Maricopa County. We will continue to update all of you as this progresses. Thank you all for all your work to prevent this project!
Want to learn even more about the history of I-11? Head over to our comprehensive set of webpages about I-11 here.Tags: I-11, Interstate 11