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Environmentalists sue to stop new I-11 AZ interstate from cutting through sensitive lands

West option may impact most sensitive lands in AZ
Posted at 7:45 PM, Apr 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-27 22:45:40-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Environmentalists are suing to stop a proposed new interstate which they say would cut through sensitive lands.

No pavement’s been put down for I-11 just yet. It’s a plan right now. But where that plan proposed to put the road has environmentalists sueing to stop it.

Planners say they need to add capacity beyond what I-10 can carry, and add it along a different route.

The proposal for I-11 would connect Nogales to Wickenburg—with the idea of that 280 mile stretch eventually expanding to carry cargo and people all the way from Mexico to Canada.

The exact route through Pima County is still undecided between two options; environmental groups see the plan as a road to destruction for some of the most sensitive land in Arizona.

David Robinson of the Tucson Audubon Society says, “The proposed West option for this freeway would go through some of the most sensitive bird habitat around and it's absolutely irreplaceable. We actually, this is one of the area's that's designated and working for their area, federal designation and the habitat itself is world famous among birders and really, truly irreplaceable.”

Carolyn Campbell of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection says plans would take the road very close to places like Saguaro National Park. She worries the road would open the desert to more urban sprawl that would drag down the environment and strain water supplies.

“We've got that infrastructure money that is now going towards, hopefully they're talking about this high speed rail between Phoenix and Tucson again. So there's so many different ways that people and freight can get around. We don't need to be destroying our national parks.”

The I-11 plans do call for environmental impact studies but ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration says they cannot comment because they are facing a lawsuit.

There is a part of the project that proposes expanding existing interstate. The area from Nogales to Sahuarita would follow the route of the existing I-19.

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Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 30 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.