The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to begin planning a southern link between Interstate 10 and Interstate 19.
The proposed 15.6-mile Sonoran Corridor would also link a proposed research corridor south of Raytheon Missile Systems to the University of Arizona Tech Park.
Supervisors Richard Elías and Sharon Bronson expressed some reservations about their “yes” votes, responding to fears of Avra Valley residents that the route would one day become part of a bypass of Tucson that would link to an interstate through rural areas west of the Tucson Mountains.
“I don’t think this is necessarily related to I-11,” said Bronson, in voting for the measure. “It is needed to keep our major employer here — Raytheon,” she said.
The vote adds the Sonoran Corridor route to the county’s Major Streets and Scenic Routes Plan. A second unanimous vote allowed the county staff to begin proceedings to establish it as a county highway.
The proposed route would connect I-19 north of Pima Mine Road to I-10 at Rita Road.
Only a small portion of the route is on county land. The county needs approval from the Tohono O’odham Nation and the city of Tucson for the route.
Making it a county highway is a precursor to gaining status as a state and federal interstate auxiliary route.
County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry called the highway plan “the most important in decades,” saying it will open up the area to development as a high-tech corridor.
That won’t happen soon, he said. “There is no money to build anything now, but you always have to plan ahead.”
The new corridor would hook up to the county’s proposed “aerospace parkway” south of the Tucson International Airport.
County maps depict the area as the “Aerospace, Defense and Technology Research and Business Park.”
That parkway is part of a plan to realign Hughes Access Road to provide a buffer for future expansion of Raytheon.
The county voted to move the road last year after Raytheon officials said the company decided not to build a $75 million missile factory and bring an additional 300 jobs to Tucson because it could not expand into its present buffer zone.
Robin Clark, of the Avra Valley Coalition, asked the board to “limit it to an aerospace parkway.”
She said her group would oppose the county’s entire bond package in 2015 if it included money for the auxiliary interstate.
She called the Sonoran Corridor “an effort to make a bypass seem inevitable.”
State highway officials in Arizona and Nevada are studying the potential for Interstate 11, which could potentially run from Nevada to the Mexican border.
Contact reporter Tom Beal at email@example.com or 573-4158.