As the Nevada Department of Transportation looks into a possible Interstate 11, with the goal of connecting Canada and Mexico, eastern Nevada is making a push to have the interstate go through the eastern part of the state. County Commissioner Richard Howe and Community and Economic Development Director Jim Garza held a phone conference last week with NDOT representatives, among others, and turned in a public meeting comment form to have an eastern Nevada route for I-11 considered going forward.
“It answers all their criteria for building a road,” Howe said. “What do we need? We need a rail, well we have a rail. We need water, we’ve got lots of water. We need energy resources, we’ve got lots of energy resources. We met all the criteria.”
NDOT and the Arizona Department of Transportation are working on a two-year study that includes a detailed corridor planning of a possible high priority interstate link between Phoenix and Las Vegas and the long-term vision of extending the corridor north to Canada and south to Mexico. The study is currently in its third phase to study alternatives and the priority selection.
Among the points brought up in submitted written answers from Garza and Howe included a possible connection point in Ely for I-11 and I-70, which is forecasted to continue from Utah into central California as well as western Nevada alternatives having much higher costs in land acquisitions, tribal agreements and greater amount of materials to develop much longer arteries than just creating a path straight north from Las Vegas.
In its initial level one analysis, NDOT listed three alternatives for the corridor stretching from Las Vegas to the northern part of the state. None of the recommended alternatives had an eastern Nevada route, which Garza and Howe said they looked to change through their phone conference and a written submission to NDOT, which NDOT PTP Sondra Rosenberg said will take under consideration and reevaluate the alternatives.
“It was a very good, conversation,” Rosenberg said. “Their concerns are that our initial draft of our recommendations for the corridors didn’t include any alternatives that were in the eastern part of the state. They provided some very good information to reevaluate our recommendation.”
NDOT held public meetings in Las Vegas and Carson City about Interstate II and the Intermountain Corridor Study. But representatives in White Pine County and Elko County were not notified of the meeting. Rosenberg said NDOT now has more contact information for county representatives to inform them of future meetings.
NDOT will host a meeting in December to reevaluate its level one study of the alternatives. People can make comments and find out more information about all the alternatives at www.i11study.com.
“I’m just happy we’re getting people excited and talking about the transportation system for this state,” Rosenberg said. “…I’m surprised and excited there’s so much interest in the northern part of the state because this project is so long term.”
After reevaluating the corridor options in Nevada, NDOT will narrow down the list of alternatives. Then, there will be a level two screening of the portion of I-11 that will stretch from Phoenix and Las Vegas. For the other sections, there will be “broad” recommendations, Rosenberg said.
While getting NDOT to reconsider its alternatives for the planned stretch of I-11 from Las Vegas to the northern part of the state does not guarantee an eastern Nevada route will move on for further consideration, Howe said the county couldn’t afford to sit on the sidelines.
“We were going to be shot out of the water before it even started,” Howe said. “Now, we at least have our foot in the door. I’m not saying anything is going to happen, but we did the right thing. We gave them our points as to why eastern Nevada is the right way to go with this and they were impressed that we did our homework and we had a lot of very valid points. We’re not guaranteeing anything, but if we don’t try, we won’t get anywhere. At least we are trying.”
As NDOT continues its study of an I-11 corridor through the state of Nevada, Rosenberg said that NDOT can’t promise an eastern Nevada corridor will move on for further studies, but that it won’t be ignored going forward, either.
“I can’t say whether it will show back up (as a recommended alternative) in this particular study, but it is certainly in the interest of NDOT to improve the mobility of the state,” Rosenberg said.