Since I am on the topic of infrastructure today, let me discuss a project close to home
A major interstate highway must be built between Phoenix and Las Vegas to keep up with the region’s rapid population growth and to facilitate global trade, says a report released jointly Friday by transportation officials in Arizona and Nevada.
The 105-page report offered justification for constructing an Interstate 11, a multibillion dollar project to improve the link between the two metropolitan areas.
The report sets the stage for preliminary route, design and environmental studies ahead of any decision to build I-11, the nation’s most ambitious interstate project in a generation.
As envisioned, the project would convert U.S. 93 into a four-lane divided highway from Las Vegas to Wickenburg, taking advantage of the new Hoover Dam Bypass bridge.
I drive this road all the time, and I have never encountered any congestion. A lot of it is already four lane divided, and the portions that are not move quite fast. There is one town (1) between Las Vegas and Wickenburg on the two-lane section that requires one to slow down and has, I think, one stoplight. I consistently average 75 miles an hour on the road. Sure, it would be nice if it were an interstate all the way, but the only real problem is the congestion in the outskirts of Phoenix, and that is already being addressed with a new loop freeway.
How can you confirm this makes no sense? Because neither AZ nor NV are spending their own money on this. This is basically a marketing proposal to obtain federal funds. If we actually had to spend our own state money on our own highway, I can't imagine anyone making it a priority over other local demands. But if the Feds will spend money.....
And as dumb as this idea is, the opposition quoted in the article is even dumber, which is probably why this kind of project actually gets approved. One group of geniuses, not identified, oppose the plan because they want a bullet train instead. Yeah, that's the ticket -- there is not enough traffic to fill a two-lane highway and Southwest offers hour long flights for $95, so let's build a dedicated high speed rail line. This is the eternal Las Vegas fantasy, that someone will spend billions to build high speed rail to whisk folks to their casinos.
Finally, there is the environmental argument:
Environmental advocates like the Sierra Club object to paving hundreds of miles of virgin desert. The area west of the White Tanks is largely open space, with a few isolated communities. Planners say the area could swell in population to 2.5 million, with the help of the freeway.
“We still think it’s a bad idea,” said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club in Arizona. “The freeway is not needed. It‘s time to look at other ways to look at our transportation needs.”
Opponents say I-11 will promote sprawl at a time when Arizonans are driving less.
I don't think widening of a road from 2-4 lanes is really "paving hundreds of miles of virgin desert", though it is funny to me that the same people who said this likely support enormous solar projects that do just that. Further, anyone concerned with sprawl being promoted along the route have probably never driven on it. The definition of "sprawl" is almost impossible to pin down, but I don't see people suddenly building suburbs around Wikieup (home of the single traffic light referenced earlier). This is a freaking deserted road and people are no more likely to move here because the road is wider than they are to live along I-40 between Flagstaff and Albuquerque (converted to an Interstate from 2-lane Route 66 years ago) . If you do drive to Vegas, look for someone to offer a prop bet on the population swelling to 2.5 million and take the under.
Seriously, why can't anyone say in print the real problem here -- it is an expensive waste of money to upgrade a highway that has no congestion problems whatsoever and is simply a bid by state government employees to grab some federal highway funds to keep ADOT administrators and engineers employed.
I am driving this highway a week from Monday. I will try to take some pictures of all the congestion.
Update: I did the 299 miles from my house to the hotel on the strip in exactly 4.5 hours. This includes a 15 minutes stop for gas and snacks as well as navigating from my home to the freeway in Phoenix and through Las Vegas traffic around the strip. I averaged 66 miles per hour, including the stops and traffic and neighborhood streets.