As a second-generation native Arizonan, I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen the phrase “We (i.e. greater Tucson) don’t want to be another Los Angeles” followed by arguments that we simply must take another giant step in that direction.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that the long awaited Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement designates an Avra Valley “Preferred Alternative” route that would exit I-19 near Sahuarita and link up with I-10 near Marana. Interstate 11 is a component of a proposed “Canamex” trade corridor that would link the seaport of Guaymas, Sonora, with Canada while bringing prosperity and happy times to all in its pathway. There are a multitude of reasons to question this rosy scenario but, due to space limitations, I’ll focus on just a few.

First of all, it would be a colossal $3.4 billion waste of taxpayer’s money. That’s BILLION, with a B. Proposals to increase the capacity of Interstate 10 would cost less and keep traffic in an existing transportation corridor, but they were never given serious consideration.

I-11 in Avra Valley would do irreparable damage to our leading attractions. The western unit of Saguaro National Park, and Pima County’s adjacent Tucson Mountain Park would be completely encircled by barriers to the free movement of wildlife between the Tucson Mountains and Waterman Mountains in Ironwood Forest National Monument.

Isolated wildlife populations inevitably suffer a decline of genetic diversity, becoming inbred and at risk of extinction. Animals like mountain lions that need a lot of space are especially vulnerable.

While the “preferred” Avra Valley route includes wildlife crossovers, it cannot and does not mitigate the negative impacts of noise, exhaust fumes and light pollution on Saguaro National Park West and another of Tucson’s crown jewels — the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Wildlife crossovers could mitigate some of the damage, but development that inevitably follows any new highway will create additional obstacles to wildlife. Will real estate speculators and others who stand to profit from new development agree to leave enough open space for wildlife? Don’t count on it.

In 2017 Saguaro National Park contributed $88.7 million to Tucson’s economy. The Desert Museum attracts approximately 400,000 visitors each year and generates many millions more in economic activity. Do we want to put these economic engines at risk for the dubious “benefits” of a freeway that will waste taxpayer money and divert customers from existing businesses in the I-10 corridor?

When we can’t take care of the roads we have, what business do we have building costly new ones? If given a choice between I-11 in Avra Valley and fixing our pothole-filled streets, I’m confident that voters would opt for fixing roads they drive on every day.

In summary, we can’t afford the “Preferred Alternative” I-11 route through Avra Valley. For more information and a link to comment, please visit the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection’s website.

William Thornton is a second-generation Arizona native; a lifelong outdoor enthusiast and conservationist; and vice president of the Friends of Ironwood Forest. Learn more at