Posts Tagged ‘ADOT’

Coalition staffer presents on I-10 Safe Passages Project at International Conference on Ecology and Transportation

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By Myles Traphagen, Borderland Programs Coordinator, Wildlands Network

Sacramento, California was the location of the tenth biennial International Conference on Ecology and Transportation (ICOET) held September 22 to 26th, 2019. Jessica Moreno, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection’s Conservation Science Director, presented the “Safe Passages for Wildlife on Interstate-10 within the Rincon-Santa Rita-Whetstone Mountains Wildlife Linkage” project, made possible by a generous grant from the Arizona Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund.

Nearly 600 delegates from 19 countries attended the four-day conference held at the Hyatt Regency directly across the street from the California State Capitol building. The vast array of topics at the conference ranged from camera trapping workshops, wildlife crossing structure design, public policy, and the state of transportation ecology around the globe.

With nearly 4 million miles of roads in the United States, and the ever-increasing paving of new roads globally (estimated to total 16 million miles by 2050), the effects of mechanized human transport on wildlife, biodiversity, and highway safety are staggering. The constant, daily stress exerted upon wildlife and biodiversity by roads cannot be ignored. The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection is actively addressing this issue through a variety of projects, and the Safe Passages presentation made by Jessica at the ICOET Conference was the final presentation in the Connecting Plans to Action session, for action is our modus operandi.

The 20-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between the Highway 83 and first Benson exit is the focus of our project. It’s obvious to anybody who has driven through this stretch that the numerous drainages and arroyos, like Davidson Canyon and Cienega Creek (which encompass several protected areas and important waters in the eastern Sonoran Desert), provide a natural travel corridor for animals that migrate between the Sky Island mountains north and south of I-10. This area has been a frequent zone of wildlife vehicle collisions. It’s no accident that these unfortunate “accidents” occur, because the Arizona Wildlife Linkages Assessment identified several wildlife corridors that cross right through here. This underscores the perils of the linear infrastructure like roads, railways, power lines and canals that increasingly dominate our modern world.

Now in Phase II, the I-10 Safe Passages project is using wildlife camera monitoring and roadkill surveys, along with community science engagement, to gather species-specific baseline data on wildlife passage rates and roadkill hotspots. We couldn’t do this important work without our dedicated volunteer team of “Desert Roadies” to help us with the driving surveys. Preliminary results, including a black bear mortality on August 23rd at mile marker 289 at Cienega Creek, have already begun to identify optimum locations for wildlife funnel-fencing installation, existing culvert retrofits, and new wildlife crossing structures. These data will inform State and County highway and wildlife officials on where to focus mitigation efforts to improve highway safety and minimize wildlife-vehicle collisions, and to provide justification for project funding.

In the US alone, it is estimated that there are between one and two million large animal wildlife vehicle collisions a year with hundreds of human fatalities as a result. The science of Road Ecology is attempting to reduce these occurrences by using crash analysis and GIS modeling of landscape variables that naturally funnel animals towards point specific places in their daily and seasonal movements. Progress is being made in identifying these places (like along I-10) where the greatest likelihood of wildlife collisions is predicted to occur.

With the data collected from the I-10 Safe Passages Project, we can identify and quantify wildlife vehicle collision hotspots and plan for and modify build-out plans to mitigate and respond accordingly to reduce these conflicts. In the case of the proposed Interstate 11, we support using avoidance and not building it in the first place! In the age of “Super-Commuters,” a term which the Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife used to describe drivers who spend two hours each way traveling to and from work, we need to rethink our approach to highway construction and proactively mitigate for and modify the design and building of roads. To learn more about how you can help by volunteering or donating, visit us here. Keep an eye out for wildlife and drive slower, safer and less when you can.

CSDP Conservation Science Director Jessica Moreno and Myles Traphagen, Borderlands Program Coordinator with Coalition member group Wildlands Network, at the International Conference on Ecology and Transportation in Sacramento, CA in September 2019.

 

CSDP Conservation Science Director Jessica Moreno presents on the Coalition’s new I-10 Safe Passages project, funded by the Arizona Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund.

 

 

 

Opposition to any proposed interstate in Avra Valley grows

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The recently convened I-11 Joint Stakeholder Community Planning Group has released a press release and position statement opposing any proposed route for Interstate 11 in Avra Valley. The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection is a proud leader of this new community stakeholder group. The full press release is below:

Citizens Convened by Federal and State Highway Departments Strongly Oppose Highway in Avra Valley

Stakeholders find Common Ground in Downtown Route to Create a Sustainable City

Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHwA) recently convened representatives of several stakeholder organizations in a process to explore two alternative routes for the proposed Interstate 11 through Pima County. Stakeholders have developed a consensus position that re-designing I-10 and I-19 to accommodate co-location with I-11 could have a positive effect on downtown revitalization, while stating strong opposition to an “I-10 bypass” in Avra Valley. See letter here. “A freeway that borders Tucson Mountain Park, Tohono O’odham tribal lands, Saguaro National Park, and Ironwood Forest National Monument makes absolutely zero sense,” stated Carolyn Campbell, Executive Director of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection. “The direct and cumulative effects of a freeway to these natural and cultural iconic places of the Sonoran Desert simply cannot be mitigated. This route should not be under consideration.”

Stakeholders believe that there are shortcomings associated with the federal review process that focuses on new highway construction.  However, “we believe that there could be a significant opportunity to address some of the historic negative consequences that resulted from the construction of I-10,” said Gene Einfrank, Menlo Park Neighborhood Association President. “The building of I-10 physically divided our community and diminished the quality of life of our downtown and other neighborhoods along the highway. Instead of simply adding new lanes to our existing highway, we should consider redesigning portions of it—either going underground or suspended—so that we can reconnect our city.” 

Moreover, stakeholders encourage a broader look at future transportation options, focusing on changes to the management of the existing highway to reduce congestion, including pricing, scheduling, and other programs; technologies that improve traffic flows; and enhancements to the rail system, including light rail and intermodal transportation.

The group recommends ADOT and FHwA refer to the I-11 Super Corridor study final document, which was submitted to ADOT in 2016, to draw inspiration on a comprehensive design. The Sustainable Cities Lab, hosted at the UA College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, completed this transdisciplinary study on the I-11 corridor along with Arizona State University and University of Nevada, Las Vegas. UA’s study area focused on opportunities from Marana to south of downtown Tucson. Their outcomes incorporate the addition of light and heavy rail, walking, cycling, new technology for controlling traffic as well as incorporating alternative forms of energy production and transportation.

Take Action: Attend public meetings about proposed Interstate 11!

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April 13, 2017

UPDATE: The Coalition submitted an official comment letter on the I-11 Corridor Alternatives on May 31. Check it out here and feel free to quote our letter or use any of our language to help with your comments. 

Mark your calendar! Save the date! And get ready to voice your opposition to any proposed interstate that goes through Avra Valley!

The Arizona Department of Transportation and the Federal Highways Administration are holding a series of public meetings in May to discuss their corridor alternatives for a new interstate between Nogales and Wickenburg. We are opposed to Corridor Alternatives C & D which go right through Avra Valley…and right next to Saguaro National Park and Ironwood Forest National Monument.

Do you think we should construct a new interstate in between our treasured Saguaro National Park and Ironwood Forest National Monument? 

It is well-established that new interstates bring with them new development, new roads, and more traffic. They are not stand-alone pieces of infrastructure. They come with exits, gas stations, frontage roads, and all kinds of new development. They also have negative impacts on viewsheds, natural quiet, dark skies, and other wilderness values. 

Avra Valley is a biologically-rich part of our region with significant protected open space, wildlife linkages, and mitigation lands.  Avra Valley is located right in between Pima County-owned Tucson Mountain Park and national treasure Saguaro National Park to the east and Ironwood Forest National Monument and the Tohono O’odham Nation to the west. It also contains mitigation lands managed by the Bureau of Reclamation for impacts from the Central Arizona Project canal, open space lands owned by Pima County and the Regional Flood Control District, and the Santa Cruz River. A new interstate through all of these protected lands would be devastating and irreversible. 

First, can we count on you to attend one of these public meetings and voice your opposition to Corridor Alternatives C & D through Avra Valley? 

 

There are two meetings in the Pima County area, and four more in other parts of southern Arizona. 

Tuesday, May 2, 5-7pm

Arizona Riverpark Inn, 777 W. Cushing St., Tucson

Wednesday, May 3, 5-7pm

Marana Middle School – Cafeteria, 11285 W. Grier Road, Marana

For a full list of all the public meetings and more information, head to the project website at http://i11study.com/Arizona/Meetings.asp

For a map of the corridor alternatives being presented at these public meetings, click here

Second, will you please submit an official public comment opposing Corridor Alternatives C & D through Avra Valley? The public comment period is April 28-June 2, 2017.

 

Comments can be submitted by email to: I-11ADOTStudy@hdrinc.com or at a new dedicated comment website: www.i11comment.com

Verbal comments can be left at this phone number: (844) 544-8049

Comments can also be mailed to: 

Interstate 11 Tier 1 EIS Study Team

c/o ADOT Communications

1655 W. Jackson St., Mail Drop 126F

Phoenix, AZ 85007

 

Need some talking points to get your started on your comments? Feel free to use these and make them your own:

  • New interstates bring with them new development, new roads, and more traffic. They are not stand-alone pieces of infrastructure. They come with exits, gas stations, frontage roads, and all kinds of new development. They also have negative impacts on viewsheds, natural quiet, dark skies, and other wilderness values. It is unacceptable to locate a new interstate with this many impacts next to a national park and a national monument. 
  • Avra Valley is home to a rich mosaic of biologically-important lands, including a national park and a national monument on either side. The proposed Interstate 11 in southern Arizona should use the existing Interstate 10 corridor.
  • We need to keep our public lands and wildlife linkages intact. Saguaro National Park is a national treasure that is already becoming increasingly isolated due to development pressure from Tucson and Marana to the east. Constructing a new interstate west of this national park would doom wildlife there forever.
  • Should there be a proven need for expanded capacity, making improvements to the existing Interstate 10 corridor is the best alternative to manage increased traffic volumes in southern Arizona. All transportation options also need to be investigated, including an expanded rail corridor between Tucson and Phoenix and multi-modal transportation solutions generally. 

Want to read the Coalition’s comment letter? Check it out here and feel free to quote us or use any of the language in our letter to help you with yours!

 

Thank you for speaking out and using your voice to make a difference! 

 

Questions? Please give us a call at (520) 388-9925 or send us an email at admin@sonorandesert.org.