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By Mary Minor Davis Creating an international trade corridor in Southern Arizona would bring economic prosperity and relevancy to the region. At the heart of that corridor is the proposed Interstate 11. The feasibility of I-11 – or the Intermountain West Corridor – is being studied by transportation departments in Arizona and Nevada. The vision for this interstate connector began in the 1990s, but has taken on more urgent prominence as the study for the alignment gets underway and business leaders call for increased focus on infrastructure to accelerate the economic recovery. The proposal, which links Phoenix and Las Vegas, currently does not include Southern Arizona. The business community – led by TREO, with involvement by the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, Tucson Metro Chamber and others – made a strong business case to the state Transportation Board to connect the I-11 not just between Phoenix and Las Vegas, but to extend it to Mexico and Canada, passing through the Tucson region. The issue is a critical component in TREO’s Blueprint Update. “Infrastructure is fundamental to future planning,” said Dennis Minano, a TREO board member who chairs the Infrastructure Committee for the Blue114 BizTucson


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print Update. “It’s the hard wiring that a community needs to be successful,” said Minano, who is vice chair at the Sonoran Institute. While the Sun Corridor represents an aggregate of population and business activity that could establish itself as an economic juggernaut in future years, infrastructure demands are at the center of Southern Arizona’s opportunities to provide the underlying support for economic development.

People don’t make the connection between infrastructure and economic growth.

– Chuck Huckelberry Pima County Administrator

“If we get bypassed by I-11, we’re done,” said Joe Snell, president and CEO of TREO, who was recently named to

the board of directors of the Interstate 11 Coalition. “We’re right on the fringe with limited highway infrastructure,” in terms of competing effectively. Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry agreed. “We have an infrastructure deficit to meet the population and economic demand that we are anticipating. Historically, people don’t make the connection between infrastructure and economic growth.” Huckelberry – who sits on the TREO Infrastructure Committee – says it will be necessary to emphasize I-11 as a trade corridor vital to tying in our other assets. “We need to convince people that it is truly a trade route, not a commuter route,” he explained. “This is not going to be a route that brings local buyers to businesses next to the interstate. It’s designed to bring about competitive trade advantage in the national distribution of goods and products.” Huckelberry said those assets include two major highways, rail to Mexico, the Port of Tucson, the Tucson International Airport and surface transportation. “When you put these together, you start to see that we can become a real logistics center for the western region,” he said.


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