Building a Quality Arizona: Statewide Intrastate Mobility Reconnaissance Study. Working Paper #4: Issue Paper Transportation.

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1 Building a Quality Arizona: Statewide Intrastate Mobility Reconnaissance Study Working Paper #4: Issue Paper Transportation September 2007 Prepared for Prepared by

2 The Building a Quality Arizona: Statewide Intrastate Mobility Reconnaissance Study was initiated by the Arizona Council of Governments (COG)/Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Association, in cooperation with the Arizona Business Coalition, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), the State Legislature, and the Governor s Office, focusing on Arizona s growth and transportation challenges. The purpose of the Statewide Intrastate Mobility Reconnaissance Study is to develop a long-range vision, driven by sustainable community and economic development, that links land use, the economy, and transportation infrastructure in the state of Arizona. In an effort to learn about strategic issues confronting Arizona, the bqaz team visited each COG/MPO, as well as other key stakeholders and state departments. These day-long workshops brought together local experts in community development, economic development, transportation, and finance to gain an understanding of the existing conditions, issues, ideas, and possibilities. Figures 1 and 2 provide a statewide summary of the major outside influences and intrastate issues heard during these visits. The findings of these visits are summarized in Working Paper #1: Data Collection Summary. This working paper will concentrate on the transportation issues learned during the site visits, summarizing these issues and needs as they relate to Arizona as a whole and then asking the reader to think about these issues and consider possible solutions. COMMON THEMES Several common themes were heard throughout the COG/MPO site visits and stakeholder meetings regarding existing and future transportation issues and concerns. Several options of easy fixes or low hanging fruit were discussed as solutions to shorter-term problems, or problems that are evident on an extensive scale today. Such solutions include the widespread construction of Intelligent Transportation Systems, such as improved radio communication between the Department of Public Service (DPS) and ADOT, or variable messaging signs to alert travelers of incidents and current travel times. Speed differentials and lane restrictions were proposed for trucks. Additional passing or hill climbing lanes in areas of difficult terrain are necessary today to maintain the flow of traffic. Railroad grade separations are a huge issue across the state for both the traveling public and the railroad operations. Many small towns or cities only have one major roadway through their community. Where this route intersects a railroad, delays at the crossing can cause massive traffic backups and create safety hazards during emergencies. Some of these short-term solutions are already being implemented through inclusion in ADOT s Five-Year Construction Program. While these solutions will enhance short-term functionality, Arizona s multimodal transportation network also requires broader and longer-term thinking. The rest of this paper poses questions to the reader on major transportation issues and facilities that the BQAZ study team heard about in the site visits. How can these issues be addressed successfully? Where should new transportation corridors be constructed? Where should the existing network be improved? How will future corridors affect each other from a transportation standpoint, as well as from an economic development standpoint? How will these improvements be funded? ISSUES Mid-State Corridor If a mid-state (between I-10 and I-40) east-west high-capacity roadway corridor is constructed, should it traverse Arizona only, with logical termini at other corridors within the state (e.g., SR-95 to US-191), or should it provide a pass-through route to California and New Mexico? If it connects to California and New Mexico, Page 1

3 Building a Quality Arizona: Statewide Intrastate Mobility Reconnaissance Study Figure 1 Figure 2 Page 2

4 where should it cross the borders? What highways would it connect to in the adjoining states? Would this overtax the capacity of these connecting roadways? Should the mid-state corridor be built to Interstate Highway standards, or as a lesser class of state highway? Within Arizona, where would this route cross the state? The corridor would likely traverse National Forest land and Indian communities what is the likelihood of acceptance of a new corridor by the tribes and the U.S. Forest Service? Which metropolitan areas, if any, would it connect? Would this mid-state facility use existing roadways corridors? If so, which ones? How would a new corridor or improvement to an existing corridor affect the municipalities it traverses? Would it bypass small towns and cities, or provide a main street? What strategies -- specifically those that support appropriate community reinvestment -- could be employed to reroute heavy commercial traffic around small communities and still maintain main street as a viable transportation and economic development corridor? How should the state and local governments work together to effectively manage and coordinate the mid-state corridor? Pearce Ferry Bridge If improvements are made at Pearce Ferry, what improvements to the existing roadway network need to be made to accommodate this facility? Would a higher capacity roadway be constructed or improved from the south to the Pearce Ferry Crossing? What would be the location and classification of this facility, and would access from the south use I-40, US-93, or some other existing route? How would this connection interact with the Hoover Dam bypass? Should there be a connection north to I-15 or to the potential northern Arizona highcapacity freight transcontinental corridor (I-66)? What efforts will be required to maintain the environmental integrity of the Grand Canyon? The Hoover Dam Bypass and improvements to the Pearce Ferry Crossing will reduce travel time to the Canyon from Nevada and Utah. With increased visitation to the Grand Canyon, how can Arizona work with the National Park Service to maintain the Canyon s identity for the State of Arizona? What transit and rail options can be implemented to reduce vehicular travel to the Canyon? I-10 Bypass What is the state of public opinion on the current Phoenix-Tucson I-10 Bypass Study and the alternative routes under consideration? How much demand exists for a bypass? What would be the main purpose of the route freight transportation, non-commercial travel or both? Phoenix and Tucson are destinations for many trucks, so how effectively could a bypass divert commercial traffic from the city centers? The San Pedro River Valley is a highly sensitive area with many environmental concerns. Is it possible to bypass this area and other protected lands, and still find a feasible route? I-17 Bypass What is the state of public opinion on the current Phoenix-Tucson I-10 Bypass Study and the alternative routes under consideration? How much demand exists for a bypass? Is development of a bypass feasible given the amount of National Forest and BLM land (including Agua Fria National Monument) between Phoenix and Flagstaff? If the entire bypass is not constructed, are there portions that make sense from a mobility standpoint? Is it even feasible to construct any portion of the bypass because of cost, terrain, and environmental concerns? Would the public be willing to sacrifice cost, terrain or environmental issues for the redundancy and reliability of another corridor? For travelers passing through central Arizona on I-17 and connecting to I-40, there is a substantial climb from Phoenix to Flagstaff and then a descent along I-40 leaving Flagstaff. Is there an alternative route that could circumvent the rapid elevation changes, reducing both time and fuel costs? Could the existing SR-89 corridor through Chino Valley serve this purpose? One of the I-17 alternatives would connect the I-17/SR-169 junction to SR-89 at Paulden, and then use the SR-89 corridor to I-40. This route is also identified in Yavapai County s long-range transportation plan. How well would this route work in terms of mobility, support for economic development, and environmental impacts? Page 3

5 Much of the weekend traffic on I-17 consists of recreational travelers between northern and central/southern Arizona. If Flagstaff is the destination of most travelers, would a bypass alleviate any of the weekend peak period congestion? Should I-17 be widened as an alternative to a bypass, or in addition thereto? Alternative Routes In addition to the I-10 and I-17 bypasses discussed above, lack of alternative routes is a concern statewide. Where should new alternative routes be considered, and where does widening of existing routes make more sense? Are both necessary in some areas? What do alternative routes mean for economic development and community reinvestment? Will alternative routes bypass small communities, thereby endangering their economic vitality? (This is an issue Arizona has faced before, especially during construction of the Interstate Highway system.) In which corridors can traffic be more efficiently detoured using existing facilities during incidents? Northern Arizona High-Capacity Freight Transcontinental Corridor How prevalent is the belief that a northern Arizona high-capacity freight transcontinental corridor (sometimes referred to as I-66) should be constructed? Would it traverse the entire width of Arizona, or just the Arizona Strip (utilizing I-15)? If it crosses the entire state, what obstacles exist to building through the Navajo Nation? Would I-66 require improvements to intersecting state highways? How would these improvements be paid for including on the Navajo Reservation? Would I-66 require an upgrade to SR-89 as the I-17 extension, and do the means to complete this improvement exist? Would this corridor make a connection over the Colorado River (at Pearce Ferry) more attractive? Would it open up the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to more tourism? What environmental issues need to be considered? How would travel and trade to and from Nevada be affected? Would I-66 serve traffic passing through the state? If this corridor would not completely traverse Arizona, could it use the I-15 corridor into Utah and make an east-west continental connection through southern Utah? How would this affect the economy of Utah and Arizona? CANAMEX The CANAMEX corridor is currently defined through Arizona as entering from Mexico through Nogales along I-19, connecting to I-10 in Tucson, bypassing Phoenix along I-8 to SR-85 north, connecting to I-10 west to Vulture Mine Road north, and finally using US-93 towards Las Vegas. This route was defined in 1995 after the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in At the time, Nogales was the largest port of entry into Arizona, accommodating the nation s large agricultural trade with Mexico, and therefore providing a logical terminus for the corridor. Does the need exist for the CANAMEX corridor, as currently defined? If constructed, should this corridor use existing roadways? Should it use the roadways currently defined in CANAMEX planning studies (listed above)? Should portions of it be rerouted to coincide with the potential I-10 bypass? Should the CANAMEX corridor continue to Las Vegas as originally planned? Or if the Pearce Ferry connection is made, should the CANAMEX take a short cut north, over the Colorado River to I-15? If a northern Arizona high-capacity freight transcontinental corridor is constructed in the future, how should CANAMEX connect with it? Western CANAMEX Does the need exist for both the CANAMEX corridor and a western CANAMEX corridor? Would the western CANAMEX use US-95 and SR-95 in Arizona, or does a better route exist in California? If it is placed in Arizona, where should it go north of Lake Havasu along SR-95, SR-68, I-40, US-93, a new route? Would it make a connection to the original CANAMEX route? How would this facility affect nearby cities such as Yuma, Parker, Lake Havasu, Bullhead and Kingman? Would it attract economic development? Are these communities interested in attracting economic development? Or are they more interested in curbing development? Page 4

6 How would western CANAMEX affect the already busy border crossing in San Luis? Would additional bridges across the Colorado River be necessary? Would existing bridges need to be improved? Should truck-only bridges be constructed to accommodate the heavy loads and keep the traffic outside city centers? Will the CANAMEX and/or western CANAMEX corridor fulfill the need for trade corridors through Arizona? Inland Ports and Foreign Trade Zones An inland port is a designated port located away from land borders and seaports. Border processing activities are shifted inland to locations where multiple modes of transportation are offered in combination with valueadded services. Tucson and Flagstaff are both inland ports within Arizona, located along transcontinental railroad corridors and north-south high-capacity roadways. Inland ports offer the opportunity for warehousing distribution services, managing containers from West Coast ports and transferring them to other rail or trucking services. A foreign trade zone (FTZ) is a secure and enclosed area, located at or near a port of entry, including an inland port. An FTZ is considered to be outside U.S. customs territory, so that foreign materials or merchandise may be moved into it without being subject to U.S. customs duties, until the goods enter American commerce. The FTZ is operated as a public venture under the supervision of the grantee (usually an economic development alliance), with U.S. Customs and Border Protection enforcing federal customs laws. There are seven FTZs in Arizona: two in Tucson and one each in Phoenix, Mesa, Yuma, Nogales, and Sierra Vista. They are generally located at a border crossing, port of entry or international airport. How can our existing transportation network respond to the increase in activity at inland ports and FTZs? Does Arizona have the multimodal capacity and facilities to support trade activities? Border Crossings with Mexico Many participants at the COG/MPO workshops felt that new international ports of entry will not be necessary, with the possible exception of an additional crossing into Mexico in the Yuma area. Instead, existing border crossings should be improved and expanded to accommodate increased traffic, especially if a new deep water port is opened (e.g., Guaymas, Punta Colanet), or economic/railroad activity increases in Hermosillo. What kinds of border improvements are necessary? Should more passenger vehicle lanes be added? Should separate cargo or truck lanes be added? Should a trucking/cargo highway be built from Mexico though the U.S.? Is this the purpose of the CANAMEX corridor? Should a state highway be constructed to connect to the port of entry at Naco? Who would fund the highway and maintain it? How can wait times be reduced at border crossings, especially on weekends when recreational traffic peaks? Should there be a fast lane for a fee or toll? Should there be universal standards on each side of the border regarding construction of transportation facilities, weight limitations, pollution controls, language/distance signage, etc.? Is this enforceable? The Tohono O odham Indian Community straddles the international border. How can Tohono O odham movements across the border be facilitated without compromising security? Mining Expansion Mining is an ebb and flow industry. While industrial activity has been subdued, changes in technology are opening up opportunities to better refine the mining process. Dormant mines are reopening across the state. New mines are being constructed. Mining is a 24-hour a day, 7-day a week business and current cities and towns cannot keep up with the industry. Housing and infrastructure needs are the two biggest issues challenging the growth of this industry in Arizona. As mining activities increase in the east central portion of the state, how will transportation needs change? US- 60, US-70, and US-191 provide important connections between mining communities and between these communities and raw material destinations. Can these roadways handle the increased traffic and weight of the Page 5

7 loaded trucks? Are there bridge concerns? Are there concerns with the terrain? Some of these areas receive snow in the winter; are these roadways plowed or able to handle increased traffic year-round? Many raw materials trucks travel between Graham County and Mexico; is the existing roadway network sufficient? How does this affect border activity? Are there environmental concerns with the materials being carried in these trucks? Are there detour routes that can handle mining trucks in case of an incident? US-70 also sees substantial RV traffic. Is it safe to combine RV and mining truck traffic? Should US-70 be improved? Should a separate truck route be created, and does a feasible route exist? Would this route connect to a potential Lordsburg bypass, and what affect would this have on the highway and the communities it traverses? What obstacles exist through the San Carlos Apache Indian Community? Other portions of the state are also experiencing a resurgence of mining activities, such as the reopening of the Duval mine in Kingman and potential slag mining in Chino/Prescott Valley. Similar questions exist in these areas. Can their roadway networks handle the increased traffic and weight of the loaded trucks? Are there bridge concerns? Are there concerns with the terrain? What about environmental stewardship? Are there detour routes that can handle mining trucks in case of an incident? Incident Management When an incident occurs on I-10 or I-40 near the New Mexico border, the highway often shuts down, routing vehicles onto other roadways. I-10 in eastern Arizona also has a problem with seasonal dust storms that occasionally close the freeway. In both cases, no clearly defined detour route exists and travelers are often forced to go very far out of the way or take a roundabout detour because they are unfamiliar with the area. How can incident management be improved? Should frontage roads be an option? Should new detour routes be created? Could existing informal detour routes be signed better? Are there ways to work with DPS to clear accidents better or faster? Are there ways of managing serious crashes that do not affect all lanes of traffic? Similar questions arise for Interstate Highways throughout the state. How can incident management be improved? Are parallel routes the only alternative? Where or how can such routes be placed in areas of difficult terrain or environmentally sensitivity? Camp Navajo Camp Navajo is a military reservation and Department of Defense facility. It currently serves three purposes. First, operating as an Arizona National Guard training site; second, providing command and control of the Arizona Army National Guard force structure in northern Arizona; and third, providing depot-level storage services to various Department of Defense customers such as the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and National Aeronautics and Space Administration with rail and truck loading facilities. An industrial park, a joint effort between the Greater Flagstaff Economic Council and the Department of the Army, is planned at Camp Navajo to allow the opportunity to recycle existing industrial land and to generate sustainable job growth for northern Arizona. Many industrial clients are interested in locating near Flagstaff, but are denied because of the lack of private land. If a large redevelopment project occurs at Camp Navajo, what additional transportation needs will exist? Private land is limited near Camp Navajo and Flagstaff because of the National Forests, but as a national Interstate Highway, I-40 is intended primarily to serve long distance rather than local travel. How can regional traffic access Camp Navajo without using I-40? If this area becomes a major economic activity center, the workforce will likely be drawn from several communities along I-40. Can commuter rail serve as an alternative transportation option? Should other transportation facilities be constructed or improved, and will such action be necessary? Page 6

8 Growth in Yuma/I-8 Because of military and other federal lands, Yuma can expand only east-west along I-8. As mentioned earlier, the Interstate Highway system is meant primarily for long-distance travel. How can an alternative transportation network support regional growth and maintain the integrity of I-8? With growth of defense activities around Yuma, how can military personnel expediently travel between Yuma and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport? Is the existing transportation system sufficient? Many military personnel are flown in without access to their own vehicles. Could passenger rail service be instated along the existing Union Pacific rail corridor? What needs to happen to increase reliability of flights in and out of the Yuma Airport? (It was heard during the site visits that flights are often cancelled or rescheduled due to a lack of passengers.) How will the construction or improvement of other transportation facilities (i.e. western CANAMEX, additional border crossing) affect growth in Yuma and the use of I-8? Growth in Prescott/SR-89 Prescott Valley and Chino Valley lie at the north end of the Sun Corridor Megapolitan. This area expects to see substantial growth in the future. To support this growth, a large swath of private and State Trust land exists for development. Yavapai County has a long-range transportation plan that includes a high-capacity roadway through the private land. Does the need exist for this corridor? Is construction feasible? Should it use existing SR-89 to I-40, or make a connection to I-40 further west? Should it be designed primarily as a truck bypass route? Currently, many trucks use SR-89 to I-40 as an alternative to I-17 because of flatter terrain. Should this corridor be improved to accommodate increased cargo traffic (and to serve growth in the Chino Valley area)? Will the region see more cargo traffic passing through with development of other transportation facilities, whether under construction (Hoover Dam bypass), proposed (CANAMEX, Pearce Ferry bridge), or currently undergoing initial feasibility study (I-10 bypass, I-17 bypass)? Growth in Eagar/Springerville As the adjacent communities of Eagar and Springerville grow and continue to attract New Mexico residents for retail and other services, will the state highway system support this travel? How will these trends affect local and regional economic development, and how can the two towns address both positive and negative impacts? Page 7

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