LAS VEGAS -- It's not a stretch to say driving to Phoenix from Las Vegas is nobody's idea of fun. Highway 93 often gets down to two lanes, and other than Kingman, Arizona, there are few places to stop. Even the rest stop in the town of Nothing, Arizona is now closed.
Between five to six hours later, welcome to Phoenix, or at least its clogged freeways. There's a long-held dream of cutting that time and distance.
Route 303 in west Phoenix is much like the I-215 in Clark County. But the question remains, what is it going to take to link our two cities together? The Arizona Department of Transportation is taking the first steps by building freeways to the edge of Phoenix.
"In the mid-1980's, the voters said yes to a .005 cent sales tax here in the greater Phoenix area that would go into building freeways. The rest really is history, in that we've built more than 150 miles of new freeways," said ADOT Spokesman Doug Nintezel.
The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge is Nevada's first step, but there are still 270 miles to go.
"A new interstate system isn't something that we study it in a couple of years and you do your final design, environmental documentation, a couple of years after that. You're looking at four or five years," said ADOT Planning Division Director Scott Omer.
And that's just for planning a new interstate, let alone building it. But what gives extra urgency to Interstate 11 is freight that's getting clogged in California's ports.
"They're talking about ports in Mexico being expanded in the years ahead. Those goods, we'd rather not see them go up the congested corridor of Interstate 5 along California's border or coast. We'd rather see them come up inland, through an area that would be available to carry all this traffic and all this freight. A lot of jobs, a lot of warehousing, a lot of construction jobs to build this type of system," said NDOT Deputy Director Rudy Mafalbon.
The proposed super-port of Punta Colonet in Baja California, Mexico could have a direct line north to Las Vegas, if an interstate was built through western Arizona.
"Neither one of the states has the money available to construct this roadway at all," said Omer.
The only money available would cover a two year, $2.5 million study to look at the environmental impact of building Interstate 11. Nevada and Arizona's best hope is that the federal government likes the state's report and opens up the wallet to link America's last two unlinked cities.
Federal numbers show that building a mile of freeway through rural areas costs around $8 million, which would make Interstate 11 cost more than $2 billion.
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