PHOENIX - A Southern Arizona lawmaker thinks the United States could be on the road to losing its sovereignty if Congress funds a new highway from Phoenix to Las Vegas, or the state allows a private firm to build it.
Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, told his colleagues they should do whatever they can to stop construction of the proposed Interstate 11. And it has nothing to do with cutting a new path through the high desert.
Stevens on Wednesday refused to vote for legislation that would remove some of the hurdles now deterring private companies from contracting with the state to use their own money to build new roads or express lanes and then be able to charge motorists for using them. The bill passed, nonetheless, and Gov. Jan Brewer signed it Thursday.
Stevens said he likes the concept, and it makes sense for a proposed new road to allow traffic to bypass Tucson instead of going through downtown on Interstate 10.
But I-11, Stevens said, is a different matter.
"There's been an attempt over the years to build what's called the Canamex Highway," he said, creating an unbroken line of roads from Nogales to the Canadian border. Some business interests have promoted it, saying funneling international trade through Arizona will create job opportunities here.
The missing link at this point of what ultimately would be joined under the banner of I-11 is that stretch from Phoenix to Las Vegas.
Stevens, however, said he sees something more sinister.
"There are people at this point who want to try to make North America one country," he told colleagues. And he said that's more than just an idea.
"You may have heard the term 'Amero,' " he said. That is what remains, for now, a strictly hypothetical unit of currency of what would be a unified financial system for the three countries, similar to the euro.
The comparison does not sit well with Stevens, who said the euro has "failed miserably."
"I am a member of the United States of America," Stevens said. "I do not want to be a member of a North American country."
After the vote for the bill, Stevens argued construction of a highway would affect the form of government in the United States.
"If you go back in history and see the other highways they've tried (to connect the countries), you see what happens," he said. Stevens said supporters of a Canamex corridor tried to build a similar road through the "heartland" of Texas before being beaten back by those in that state with similar concerns.
Pressed for how a new stretch of highway was part of a one-hemisphere government, Stevens said the evidence is all around, starting with the House, on a voice vote, adopting a resolution urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to designate U.S. 93 between Phoenix and Las Vegas, much of which is now two lanes, "as a future Interstate System route and as part of the proposed Interstate 11."
And then there's the Amero.
"That's been floated out there, too," Stevens said.
"Is it a doable thing? Probably not," he continued. "But is it useful information? I think it is."
The votes for the toll road bill and I-11 memorial show most of Stevens' colleagues do not view the road with such alarm, including House Speaker Andy Tobin.
"It's not a bridge to Acapulco or anything like that," Tobin, R-Paulden, said.
Nor is the road any secret, he said, noting that Brewer actively promoted construction of the road in her State of the State speech in January.
"It will connect two of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country," the governor told lawmakers.
"This project will promote commerce, tourism and trade across the western United States," Brewer said in her speech.
That goal was reflected in the House memorial adopted this week.
"Such an interstate highway would allow Arizona to advance its interests in recreation and tourism and increase participation in commercial trucking and the moving of freight, including the continued development of logistics and distribution centers," it reads.