Posts Tagged ‘Interstate 11’
On April 21, 2022, four conservation groups – the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, along with our member groups Center for Biological Diversity, Tucson Audubon Society, and Friends of Ironwood Forest – filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Tucson challenging the Federal Highway Administration’s approval of Interstate 11 last year.
The agency approved the highway in November 2021 despite postponing an environmental review or deciding between two route options in Pima County, both of which would harm wildlife, public lands, and air quality and exacerbate the climate emergency. The lawsuit says this “approve now, study later” approach violated federal law.
The Coalition’s Executive Director, Carolyn Campbell, said in a press release about the lawsuit, “This is an egregious assault on 100 years of efforts by local, state and federal land agencies to protect important desert lands forever, for species to survive and move through the landscape. There is overwhelming opposition by residents, tribal entities, public agencies and elected officials here in the Tucson area and we won’t stop until we’ve blocked this destructive and unneeded freeway that will harm our wildlands and wildlife.“
To learn more, you can read a press release and an AZ Daily Star article about the lawsuit. You can also find comprehensive background information on Interstate 11 at this webpage, which includes a main page with the latest information and extensive sub-pages that chronicle our years-long campaign opposing this project.
Thank you for using your voice to oppose the West Option for Interstate 11!
On July 16, 2021, the Arizona Department of Transportation and Federal Highways Administration released the Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). The FEIS now identifies TWO possible Preferred Alternatives, a West Option through Avra Valley AND an East Option that co-locates I-11 with I-19 and I-10 through the Tucson region.
Action #1: Please ACT TODAY and request an extension of the public comment deadline from 30 days to 120 days.
You can read the comment letter we submitted with this request HERE. Feel free to copy the language in this letter and/or personalize with your own words.
A summary of talking points from our letter requesting an extension of the public comment deadline include:
- The 30-day comment period is insufficient for review of the documents and ensuring the public is aware of the opportunity to review and comment on the project.
- Because the impacts of this project are intergenerational, we urge you to consider an extension to provide the public with a full and fair opportunity to participate in this process.
- Many of the communities impacted by the Preferred Alternative Options within the Corridor Study area are minority and low-income populations who in many cases do not have access to the traditional means by which federal EIS processes are advertised and published. Both proposed alternatives will have disproportionate adverse effects on these populations and they will need adequate time to be notified via ground mail or other means.
- The Western Alternative through Pima County is proposed through traditional Tohono O’odham lands where tribal members may have limited internet access.
- The Draft EIS documents totaled close to 5000 pages of text, maps, and other figures – the length and breadth of this document warrants a longer public comment period to allow adequate review by the public.
- A new Interstate freeway has not been built in this metropolitan area since 1961 – over two generations ago. Many of the issues will have long-lasting, significant impacts on our community and we need sufficient time to review the record, research issues and concerns, and provide a substantive response.
Action #2: Submit a comment stating your opposition to the West Preferred Alternative Option (can be done concurrently or separately from Action #1)
The Tier 1 FEIS identifies TWO Preferred Alternative routes: 1) a West Option that runs through Avra Valley, and 2) an East Option that co-locates I-11 with I-19 and I-10 through the Tucson region. There is currently a 30-day public comment period for the FEIS, with public comments due on August 16, 2021 (see above for information on our efforts to extend this deadline to November 16, 2021).
The overarching message we encourage in your comments is that ADOT/FHWA should ABANDON the West Preferred Alternative Option in Avra Valley. We are currently working on our comments and will be posting more details soon. Check back here for more information in the days ahead.
Comments can be submitted in the following ways:
Phone: 1.844.544.8049 (bilingüe)
Mail: I-11 Tier 1 EIS Study Team c/o ADOT Communications
1655 W. Jackson Street Mail Drop 126F
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Head over to our main I-11 webpage for more ways to get involved.
The main I-11 FEIS website is at: http://origin.i11study.com/Arizona/
A traditional PDF version of the FEIS (split into multiple documents) can be found at: http://origin.i11study.com/Arizona/Documents.asp
An interactive version of the FEIS can be accessed at: https://i11.ee.alytics.com/I11Arizona-Tier1EIS/
Questions? Please reach out anytime to our Associate Director Kathleen Kennedy at Kathleen.Kennedy@sonorandesert.org or leave us a voicemail at (520) 388-9925 and we’ll get back with you ASAP!
When did you fall in love with the Sonoran Desert? I suspect your answer and mine are the same – you fell in love the first time you wandered into it. For me, this was in early April 2009 on my first visit to Tucson. There’s something so transfixing about all of it: the majestic, arborescent Saguaro; the fascinating varieties of chollas; the stately Ocotillo; and the incredible biodiversity in terms of wildlife that though I did not see on that first visit, were very much there.
I had many options for post-grad institutions, and all things being more or less equal, academically, between different Public Administration Programs, I wanted to live in a place where I could hike and explore year-round. Clearly Tucson, in the lower Sonoran Desert and surrounded by imposing Sky Islands, fit the bill.
I’ve always been a preservationist; that value was instilled early in my life when year after year my family would visit Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado, but that sense has greatly expanded every time I’ve stepped onto a trail here. This was the driving factor in me pursuing an internship with the Coalition. I was brought on board, first and foremost, to take on the discovery of records related to the proposed Interstate 11 project, which would run through – and destroy – the Avra Valley as it exists today. I wrote several Freedom of Information Act requests to multiple stakeholders in the process, a sometimes arduous and frustrating task but also a greatly rewarding one that revealed among many things: the legal questionability of running I-11 thru the Tucson Mitigation Corridor, a lackluster archaeological survey, the likely inappropriateness of the exclusion of Ironwood Forest National Monument from the Tier I analysis, the questionable exclusion of the potential impacts of a high speed rail between Tucson and Phoenix on traffic on I-10, ADOT’s own models showing a merely 4 minute “negligible” time saving between Nogales and Casa Grande on I-11 versus the existing I-10 at peak driving times and a “negligible” amount of truck traffic expected to move from I-10 to I-11, and an overall general Tier I analysis that could not be considered sufficient to presenting the impacts of I-11 on the environment. Though I-11 was my main focus, I also got to work on (and get a crash course in) Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, Maeveen Marie Behan Conservation Lands System, and the Multi-species Conservation Plan – all projects CSDP put considerable time and energy into developing. Finally, I was able to get my hands dirty in the field while helping install cameras.
In my time at the Coalition, I’ve been extremely lucky to be able to work with a committed group of people in Carolyn, Jessica, Whelan, and Kathleen, plus Kevin Dahl with NPCA and Cyndi Tuell with Western Watersheds Project, whom are just as good people as they are advocates. It was truly a pleasure to come in every Tuesday to the CSDP Office to work. It was as much a pleasure as it was to be with them as it is to step into the desert on an early Spring hike, and this is not something I say lightly.
The Sonoran Desert is an incredibly beautiful, timeless place, as best exemplified by its ancient Saguaros, but it is not invulnerable. Buffelgrass and other invasive species and continued, mindless sprawl are immediate, serious threats in many places. These threats are exemplified by I-11 itself and the Bighorn Fire, which though spared the majority of the lower Sonoran Desert and its Saguaros, burned (and thus killed) countless higher elevation Saguaros. Had the Bighorn Fire dipped further into the many canyons in the Catalinas, the effect of Buffelgrass would have been total devastation of the Sonoran ecosystem in those areas. Further, Climate Change threatens not just the Sonoran Desert, but landscapes (and more importantly, people) across the planet. Other additional threats exist including but not limited to: mining, overgrazing, and the border wall. But I am not resigned to defeat in the face of these – there are so many organizations in addition to the Coalition fighting these threats, too numerous to name, who are making a difference.
As for me, my future is uncertain at the moment. I graduated in May with a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Arizona and entered a world ravaged by the impacts of the Coronavirus. Thus far my employment endeavors have proven fruitless and I will likely have to leave Tucson as a result. I hope to stay connected with the Coalition and even provide help, if the need arises, particularly with regards to I-11, during my time in between finding work. Yet it is not all bad news – I’m proud of the work I was able to do that has brought important facts about I-11 into the light and I’m proud to have been part of an organization that is so committed to protecting the Sonoran Desert and its biodiversity.
A HUGE thank you to Rob from all of us at the Coalition for all your work for us and the Sonoran Desert during your internship. We are so grateful for everything you contributed to our mission and can’t wait to see what you do next!
Thanks to a new partnership with volunteer, welder, and ecology student Raynor Vandeven, there are now four wildlife cameras out in the field with professional photography equipment capturing images of Sonoran Desert wildlife. These cameras are located in an area along the proposed I-11 route, in the Tucson Mountains, near the Oracle Road wildlife crossings, and in the I-10 East wildlife linkage area.
We are so grateful to Raynor for his willingness to share these images with the Coalition and can’t wait to start sharing more of them with you in the weeks and months ahead!
(Note: the photos below are examples of Raynor’s wildlife photography and were not taken in the locations described above. )
Thanks to all of our supporters and volunteers for another year of successful wildlife camera monitoring in the Tucson Mountains and Oro Valley study areas! See an overview of our Tucson Mountain camera project results HERE and our Oro Valley camera project results HERE.
We have been monitoring wildlife with wildlife cameras in the northern portion of the Tucson Mountains and Avra Valley for four years. To date we’ve seen over 30 species across 23 camera sites, data which helps inform our I-11 work and knowledge about the Tucson-Tortolita Mountain Wildlife Linkage. Javelina have been photographed most frequently, and it is good to see these native seed dispersers out and about! Other notable results in the last year include more badgers, and bobcats with kittens in tow.
In Oro Valley, we have been monitoring east and west of the Oracle Road wildlife bridge and underpass for a total of seven years! We now have excellent comparative data pre- and post- construction of the crossings that were built in May 2016. With 62 species across 49 camera sites (and nearly 78,000 photos!), we are seeing lots of cottontails and quail that are plentiful prey for coyotes, bobcats, and gray foxes. We’ve seen white-nose coati and bighorn, and our resident female mountain lion has appeared again this year several times just west of the wildlife bridge.
We will post more detailed results as we finalize project reports and dive into the fun and useful information these cameras have in store!
On August 8, 2019, the Center for American Progress released a new report on the proposed Interstate 11 as part of its “White Elephant Watch” series, which “profiles projects that demonstrates the failures of the current U.S. policy approach to transportation infrastructure.”
This report provides a detailed analysis of this proposed project, including a point-by-point analysis of the Purpose and Need section of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The report concludes the following:
“ADOT’s proposed I-11 corridor has four major flaws:
- Fails to increase transportation choice or reduce local single-occupant vehicle trips made within the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas
- Promotes low-density land use and dependence on automobility
- Produces significant environmental harms
- Is based on flawed travel demand models that do not adequately account for induced demand”
On July 4, 2019, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, and additional signatories representing 27 community and environmental organizations, submitted comments on the Tier 1 Interstate 11 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Nogales to Wickenburg.
The full comment letter can be found HERE.
Still haven’t submitted YOUR comments on the I-11 DEIS? There’s still time! The comment deadline is still 4 days away on Monday, July 8.
You can submit public comments in multiple ways, including:
Phone: 1.844.544.8049 (bilingüe)
I-11 Tier 1 EIS Study Team c/o ADOT Communications
1655 W. Jackson Street
Mail Drop 126F
Phoenix, AZ 85007
For more information on this issue to help inform your comments, head to our Take Action Webpage.
Thank you for using your voice for the people and wildlife of the Sonoran Desert!
On May 12, 2019, CSDP Executive Director Carolyn Campbell was interviewed by Amanda Shauger for the “30 minutes” program on local community radio station KXCI 91.3 FM. Over the half-hour show, Carolyn and Amanda discuss the history of the Coalition, the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, and what we’re working on these days. Topics covered include how and why the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan came to be, protecting Sonoran Desert wildlife linkages, our fight against the Rosemont Mine and Interstate 11, our Critter Cam program, and more!
The full show can be listened to at:
Thanks for all your support over the last 21 years!
Noise, glare, and vibration
would be the new calling card
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.