A state project to widen the scenic Arizona 83 to accommodate traffic from the proposed Rosemont Mine was rejected by the Pima Association of Governments Regional Council Thursday.
The project called for widening 22 miles of the road from two lanes to four lanes, with shoulders and passing lanes, from Interstate 10 to the county line near Sonoita.
Thursday's vote excludes the project from the updated 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, which is a road map for spending on future transportation improvements.
Because it's not in the plan, the $76 million project won't qualify for federal or state funding.
The Arizona Department of Transportation can try again. The state agency can ask PAG to include the project in another 2040 plan update in the future, or it can take the unusual step of asking the Federal Highway Administration to intervene.
Opponents said the widening would diminish the scenic quality of the roadway and devastate wildlife. They also said the projected population growth of the rural area doesn't justify the extra lanes.
Roger Featherstone, director of the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, told the PAG regional council that only the mine company would benefit from the expansion, and that adds up to a public subsidy and "a waste of taxpayer dollars."
The PAG council, which includes top leaders from all local jurisdictions, also had considered including only the planning phase of the Arizona 83 project in the 2040 plan but not the construction.
But Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath said it would be like "comparing apples to avocados" if there were a plan that had to account for a mine scenario and a no-mine scenario.
"Are we then going to have to pay for two separate studies consecutively?" he asked.
The PAG board approved 11 other projects for changes or additions to the 2040 plan. Among them are a new Interstate 10 interchange at Sunset Road and the widening of Corona Road near Tucson International Airport.
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Contact reporter Becky Pallack at email@example.com or 573-4346.