What’s next for the Sonoran Corridor?

A couple of years ago an environmental review process kicked off for the then-proposed Sonoran Corridor, a multilevel, multiyear economic development initiative for the Greater Tucson area. The multistep project, which is still in its early stages of development, will completely upend the southern Arizona transportation landscape, not only by adding more routes and roads, but by adding more jobs to the bustling area and billions of dollars in economic impact.

The Arizona Department of Transportation considered a total of 10 proposed routes and narrowed it down to three with the help of public input. One possibility is that the I-10 freeway would connect with the I-19, easing congestion in the Tucson area, while also opening up more ways to get to border towns strung below the metropolis.

The Corridor project has been in an environmental impact study status before holding a public meeting this past Thursday.

All three proposed routes picked by the public are south of the airport and connect the I-19 to either near El Toro Road or near San Xavier, and connect near I-10 at either Rita or Houghton. The goal of the meeting was to try to better identify a specific corridor and then narrow it down even further.

This could provide an economic boost in several ways. Companies that benefit from access to the airport and a new freeway would be attracted to the area, as would companies that provide services to those companies,” says Tom Hermann, a representative for ADOT. “It also could make the Tucson International Airport region even more attractive to companies from international commerce and others along both Interstate 19 and Interstate 10. And it would benefit companies already in the Tucson area by reducing congestion on I-10 around downtown Tucson.”

At this time there’s no concrete timeline as to when it could all come to fruition. There’s still another year to go on the impact study before it heads to a tier 2 impact study that could take a couple of years itself. It could be at least another five years off, and that’s when everything is planned—then you have to construct it all.

But the idea is that state and local government are thinking of the long term for Tucson, painting a portrait that the city is poised to continue to balloon in population and geographic sprawl. More and more companies are heading to the region to either move headquarters or expand with more offices, and the startup culture is another draw for new employees in the region.

Tucson has seen a steady rise in population in recent years with low cost of living and higher wage jobs. With more people and opportunities comes the need to literally pave the way for people to get around.

The meeting was a way for ADOT to get the public involved, a public that plans on staying put in the area for years to come, a testament to the region’s faithful who plan to call Tucson home for good. The current environmental impact study is considering not only routes and economic impacts, but also how it could affect natural wildlife and habitats.

Nick Esquer

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