Stop CANAMEX, Stop the Intermountain West Corridor and I-11! Stop the Sun Corridor! Stop the 202!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Filling in the I-11/CANAMEX Gaps

Also check out this more recent piece, Interstate 11: NAFTA Trade Corridor from June 21, 2016.

Update: ADOT reported on December 4, 2015 that "The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act, formally designates Interstate 11 throughout Arizona. It states that the I-11 corridor will generally follow Interstate 19 from Nogales to Tucson, Interstate 10 from Tucson to Phoenix, and US 93 from Wickenburg to the Nevada state line. From there, the Interstate 11 corridor extends north through Nevada, and is designated as an interstate highway north of Las Vegas, through Reno, connecting to Interstate 80...
ADOT is beginning work on a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement covering the area between Nogales and Wickenburg." More information at ADOT's website.

Fascinating that John Halikowski, Director of Arizona Department of Transportation asked in reference to the future Interstate 11 at a recent meeting, "Is that CANAMEX high-priority corridor still in existence?" (Source, page 21-22). Okay, the director of ADOT, who also is also part of the Arizona-Mexico Commission (AMC) which is said to be the "god father" of CANAMEX, as well as co-chair of the Transportation and Trade Corridor which would appear to have taken over the role of pushing CANAMEX, had to verify if CANAMEX still exists? What does this tell you about how much Arizona decision-makers know about, much less want or need this trade corridor, not to mention the knowledge or desire on the part of the residents? Now, it may be good news that Halikowski doesn't seem to know what's going on, or that CANAMEX is not actively being pushed, but then again, it may just be that the Intermountain West Corridor, confusingly, is the new CANAMEX and the planning is all happening very much behind the scenes.

What we can gather:
  • CANAMEX is not dead, but not everyone is on the same page about its relationship to the I-11 and Intermountain West Corridor.
  • I-11 was designated in order to make CANAMEX more efficient, although some current transportation decision-makers don't even know about CANAMEX.
  • The Intermountain West Corridor seems to be the name for the potential future trade corridor stretching from Mexico to Canada, definitely including the congress-designated I-11 that would connect Las Vegas to Phoenix, but also used interchangeably with I-11 in that I-11 designation may one day include that whole north-south span across the country (See also maps in Figures 1 and 2) and is likely a somewhat different route from that of CANAMEX even though it would serve the same purpose.
  • These trade corridors are being pushed on us by largely private interests who seek to profit from NAFTA.
Although imposed on us by the federal government and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), with the participation of some locals, CANAMEX is a trade corridor that pretty much already exists in the form of various roadways, although the goal is to make it more efficient. This corridor seems especially relevant considering the tizzy certain southern Arizonans are in over the Interstate 11's lack of connection between Phoenix to the Mexican border (for example, see December 2013 State Transportation Board notes). If CANAMEX already serves the purpose of connecting Canada, the US and Mexico running through Phoenix, Tucson, Nogales, etc, and I-11 is just meant to fill in the missing gap for freight traffic efficiency north of Phoenix, what's the big deal? And why hadn't CANAMEX been brought up throughout much of the I-11 conversation at the State Transportation Board meetings until February? This raises questions about what the status of CANAMEX is and why certain southern-Arizonans wouldn't be satisfied with the existing designation.

In response to Halikowski's inquiry, Scott Omer, Assistant Director of Multimodal Planning Division stated, "Yes, sir, it is. Congress established the high-priority corridors. ...what we would call the CANAMEX corridor was listed as high-priority corridor Number 26 in the federal designation of that. The I-11 designation actually came out of that high-priority designation that Congress had passed. So portions of that is what came up with the designation for -- of I-11 from -- basically from Las Vegas to the City of Phoenix along U.S. 93. The rest of that designation remains intact. It's just not included in the Congressional designation that was passed as part of the MAP-21 legislation" (Source, page 21-22).

If you've been following this blog, you likely read that the I-11 is just meant to facilitate the freight traffic required by the CANAMEX corridor that is inadequate between Phoenix and Las Vegas. Quoted in the past was the Interstate 11 Study website's own words: "... the CANAMEX corridor is composed of a myriad of existing Interstate corridors and state highways, and is not a continuous route due to a gap in the designation between I-10 and US 93. Implementation of the Corridor can fill this gap..." (Source).  You can also see CANAMEX mentioned several times in their timeline.

In previous meeting minutes and transcriptions, some ADOT members seemed dumbfounded at the fact that congress would only designate the I-11 between Phoenix and Las Vegas. During the December 13, 2013 State Transportation Board meeting, a resolution was discussed that requested an expansion of I-11 down to the Mexican border.

Here's one entertaining exchange:

Deanna Beaver: "...I would like just a little clarification... why originally was -- Congress passed the law that the section was just from Nevada to Phoenix as opposed to the full length of the state?"
Floyd Roehrich: "Now, Mr. Flores, Ms. Beaver, I've got to be careful here. I can request Congress, but they have to answer that.  We have no idea. Nobody knew that was in there until it showed up... we'll never get satisfaction from Congress, because I -- I don't know why they put it in there. And we in staff have no -- we're not given justification around Congress's action."
Beaver: "Well, it just didn't seem logical to me if the whole thing was a corridor from north south, why they would stop it halfway.
Roehrich: "So you're equating logic with Congress right now?..."
Halikowski: "There were lots of supporters, Mr. Chairman, if you recall the media coverage. It was two big cities, Phoenix and Vegas, that weren't connected. And I think that's what a lot of supporters were focused on..." (Source).

The communication gap may have to do with there being little to no overlap between ADOT and the CAN-DO (Connecting Arizona and Nevada - Delivering Opportunities) a nonprofit corporation, also now known as I-11 Coalition. According to one I-11 Study document (p 12), CAN-DO coalition "leaders played a strong role in lobbying for the designation of this corridor as 'Interstate 11' in MAP‐21."

Arizona Trade Corridor Study, 1993
Those involved in this coalition had a particular interest in addressing the inadequate connection between the two cities. CAN-DO Coalition's president and the executive director have been involved in the Governor's CANAMEX Taskforce and CANAMEX Coalition respectively, these groups very likely also having a role in lobbying congress. Actually, pushers of CANAMEX had identified US 93 as the missing link as far back as 1993 in this Arizona Trade Corridor Study which is the earliest reference to CANAMEX known to this blogger.

Many discussions of the I-11, in the media and in official meetings, omit any reference to CANAMEX but often refer to an international trade corridor reaching from Mexico to Canada. Look at a sampling of media reports on the future interstate and you'll see that I-11 will be referred to as the international trade corridor, or just part of it. Either way, it is clear that the role of the interstate is to facilitate international trade. Since CANAMEX is the trade corridor that already runs through Phoenix and Las Vegas (and through the international borders), however inadequately, it was odd that it had appeared that it wasn't until February 14th State Transportation Board meetings that CANAMEX was actually mentioned during the board's recent discussions on I-11.

Although ADOT Director John Halikowski seemed to not be certain that CANAMEX still existed, prior to asking about it, he stated, "But my understanding is you have two high-priority issues here, corridors. [sic] And the Interstate 11 designation, but let's not forget the Intermountain West Corridor, which is the CANAMEX high-priority corridor, which runs from Nogales up into Phoenix" (Source, p 20). We can take this with a grain of salt since Halikowski does seem rather oblivious, but here he is saying the Intermountain West Corridor is the CANAMEX Corridor.

Also, when he says that CANAMEX runs from Nogales to Phoenix, one can probably assume that he's just referencing that specific portion, not implying that that is the whole stretch. It would appear though, based on how certain people and groups like TREO are responding, that the southern connectivity desired for the I-11 is not fulfilled by this CANAMEX designation, or there's something else to gain (e.g. federal funding) by designating a southern leg officially as the interstate.

The Intermountain West Corridor may be taking the place of CANAMEX, may be somewhat different from the official route, and/or "Interstate 11" might one day be the name for the entire stretch between Canada and Mexico. Discussion of what the I-11 and Intermountain West Corridor is exactly and how it relates to CANAMEX is consistently ambiguous. For one, "Intermountain West Corridor" is nearly always paired with I-11, which would imply that they are related but not one and the same, yet the difference is never explained. Secondly, when CANAMEX is mentioned, there is no clarification as to the difference or relationship between the two (or three), such as on the project background on the interstate 11 study website.

The relationship between CANAMEX and I-11, etc. seems unreasonably vague in this description from the I-11 and Intermountain West Corridor Study "Corridor Justification Report" from August 2013. "The CANAMEX Corridor is designated as an FHWA High Priority Corridor, and a segment of CANAMEX has recently been noted as a 'future Interstate corridor' named as I-11 in MAP-21. Many of the objectives of I-11 and the Intermountain West Corridor are similar to those of CANAMEX, primarily enhancing freight travel and trade between Canada and Mexico; therefore, prior CANAMEX planning should be considered as part of this study." 

Figure 1. From AMC's Catalyst newsletter, winter 2014
An article from summer 2010 reported, "MAG maps now show I-11 running north beyond Las Vegas, up the California-Nevada border and emerging in eastern Washington."
Maps like the one in figure 1 from the Arizona-Mexico Commission's latest newsletter shows two trade corridors, one labled CANAMEX and the other labled I-11. If this is accurate, then the intention seems to be that I-11 would eventually encompass the entire stretch and there would be two separate trade corridors north of Las Vegas. We can probably conclude that "Intermountain West Corridor" is a stand-in term for that trade corridor until I-11 is expanded at which point the terms would be used interchangeably. Another similar map was found in a MAG presentation from December, but these cannot be found in I-11 Study materials. Nowhere else is there any indication that there would be two separate trade corridors north of Las Vegas, but perhaps it is too soon to say and not as relevant to those in Arizona.

The map is likely just a working document. On the FAQ page under "Do you have a map of the proposed route?" it states, "No. It is very early in the study process and alternatives/alignments have not yet been developed. Several previous studies have identified potential alignments for the Corridor or a similar north-south Interstate route (e.g., Hassayampa Freeway and the CANAMEX Corridor). As part of this study, review of prior recommendations will occur, building upon them utilizing new information, to determine suitable alternative alignment options." As accessed on from 2012, however, the following description from site is much more clear about the Intermountain West Corridor, but one must wonder why it has since been removed. "Serving the nation’s north-south transportation needs from Mexico to Canada, the proposed Intermountain West Corridor... is also envisioned to promote possible freight linkages between the new and expanding ports in Mexico and Canada, existing United States West Coast ports, and future inland ports and commerce centers crucial to distributing goods across North America."

This is the understanding reflected in an April 10 Arizona Capitol Times article referring to Interstate 11, "The highway between the two cities is just one segment of the larger Intermountain West Corridor, which could one day be a new interstate route from Mexico to Canada" (Source).

The Intermountain West Corridor is obviously not set in stone. Another very recent article reports that there are seven possible corridors through Nevada.
Nevada and Arizona are nearing the end of a two-year study of plans for I-11 connecting Las Vegas and Phoenix. That project received congressional designation in 2012, and work is expected to begin soon on a highway bypass around Boulder City as an initial phase of construction...
The study, to wrap up in July, covered seven possible I-11 corridors through Nevada and recommended two for further study. Its “most favorable” route follows US 95 north from Las Vegas to Interstate 80, then west to US 395 in Reno and north into California and Oregon.
The study also recommended further analysis of a route that loosely follows the U.S. 95 corridor through the Fernley/Fallon area, than [sic] on to Oregon and Idaho through Winnemucca (Source).

Perhaps all this ambiguity has to do with CANAMEX being in transition. "An update to the concept of CANAMEX is currently underway," states Arizona-Mexico Commission's "Arizona Border Communities Roadmap" from December 2013 (p 42). It would not be surprising if the concept update comes out of the TTCA's strategic roadmap they've been promising for several months, which might be released after this month's steering committee meeting which doesn't seem to be open to the public. It is possible that CANAMEX appears as a separate route in these maps because it is still considered a high-priority trade corridor with its official route until and if it is changed. In other words, the Intermountain West Corridor may replace the CANAMEX Corridor, with whichever route is decided upon, if that route is different from the official CANAMEX route, but in the meantime, they must be discussed as two separate routes.

The website has hardly been updated since 2007 (and for a bit the url was redirecting to the ADOT website). Yet the I-11 and Intermountain West Corridor Study "Corridor Justification Report" from August 2013 discusses the CANAMEX Coalition as though it still exists. Also, Marisa Walker was described as representing "CANAMEX/Arizona Commerce Authority" where she was listed as part of the Policy Advisory Committee for the "Arizona-Sonora Border Master Plan" published in February 2013. In this Master Plan is probably the most up-to-date info on CANAMEX. This further complicates things because it indicates that there are two separate routes south of Phoenix.

"The “CANAMEX Corridor” reflects a vision for supporting the priorities of the CANAMEX Coalition while also establishing a Southwestern High Speed Rail Network. The goal of actions in this corridor is to improve mobility, promote sustainability, and preserve environmental resources. The Plan calls for strategic investments in intracontinental transportation infrastructure and technology to increase competitiveness in global trade, create jobs and maximize economic potential. It is formed by two separate travel routes connecting the international border with Sonora, Mexico, with Las Vegas, Nevada. One leg includes the route adopted in furtherance of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This route follows a western alignment from Nogales, Mexico, through Tucson, Arizona, around the Phoenix metropolitan area to Wickenburg, then US 93 to the Las Vegas metropolitan area. A key element of transportation enhancements in this corridor include the proposed Interstate 11 Multimodal Corridor, which has evolved to represent the ultimate high-capacity travel corridor between I-19 south of Tucson and Las Vegas and beyond. The CANAMEX Corridor definition incorporates the concept of a Western Passage of the CANAMEX trade route with a focus on improving connections between western Arizona and Mexico. This connection would take the form of a new rail corridor linking Yuma, Arizona, with a proposed mega port at Punta Colonet, Mexico. The new rail corridor would have a linkage with UPRR Sunset Route while continuing north along the Colorado River to Las Vegas, Nevada. A resolution has been prepared in support of establishing this Western Passage, and recognition from the U.S. Congress has been requested. A second potential route for new rail service in Southern Arizona has been identified as the Hassayampa Rail Corridor, which would link the UPRR Sunset Route to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s “Peavine” route in Wickenburg, Arizona with a potential connection to Sonora, Mexico, through Sonoyta" (Source).
A 2013 document from the Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization discusses this CANAMEX Western Passage as thought it exists, but information on this is not readily available (check back for an update on this blog about the Western Passage).

We can assume that in some cases, references to CANAMEX may be avoided due to its potentially controversial connotation, such as is the case with the Trans-Texas Corridor. Many people with a wide range of politics disagree with having these "NAFTA Super Highways" run through our communities. Whether it be because of the impact NAFTA has had on the workers in each of the North American countries in the past 20 years, or because more nationalistic or even xenophobic worries about a "North American Union," CANAMEX pushers are likely to avoid putting the trade corridor in the spotlight.

The question is, who is deciding all of this? It is becoming rather obvious that state officials are not on the same page as federal officials, and in fact much of this is coming from private interests, local and international. The CANAMEX website stated, “Organizationally the development of the Corridor is advanced through a multi-state coalition including public and private sector representatives selected by the Governors of the five states” (Source).

It is clear that the new Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance (TTCA) is meant to take on the role of pushing CANAMEX, whether under that name or not. In fact, the Arizona-Mexico Commission (AMC), of which Jim Kolbe is the CANAMEX expert, and John Halikowski of ADOT is committee member (both are co-chairs of TTCA), says the following on their website: "the Arizona Governor’s Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance (TTCA)... encompasses the former CANAMEX Task Force." (Source). The TTCA "is heavily private sector and includes representatives from APL, Avnet, UPS, BNSF, W. L. Gore, port authorities, growers and brokers, Mexican manufacturers, Arizona Trucking Association, Sky Harbor Airport, and several of the state’s councils of governments and metropolitan planning organizations" (Source).

Local government has much less stake in massive trade infrastructure and other neoliberal projects, which may explain the disconnect and lack of organization. Even though the project to create private/public collaboration has been a long time in the making, clearly not everyone is on the same page. Regarding this project, some of the puzzle pieces are laid out in "Highway to hell? CANAMEX, Loop 202, and the Tar Sands," one of the main ones being the TTCA/AMC/Jim Kolbe/Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty III/Council of the Americas/North American Competitiveness Council/Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) connection.
From the “Findings of the Public/Private Sector Dialogue on the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America” report [2006]: “High-level attention from the private sector on the importance of North American cooperation is needed to establish a positive political profile for SPP. CEO-level engagement in this process is called for, participants said, and it is necessary for the private sector to communicate not only with governments but also with the public to help build greater understanding and support for a North American agenda... Strong, private sector-led initiatives resulting in regional transportation advancements are being put in place, initiated by local actors, with local interests... Transportation, it was observed, is fertile ground for public-private partnerships, but bureaucratic obstacles to the creation of cross-border infrastructure can be prohibitive of such efforts” (my emphasis).
The good news is that it is evident that they haven't completely accomplished their goals if not everyone, such as Halikowski, is on the same page. However, they have accomplished a lot. CANAMEX exists in many ways, and the pieces are slowly falling together for I-11, assuming funding becomes available. That's the other goal they're seemingly accomplishing. These public-private partnerships are increasingly being used for infrastructure such as transportation. We've already seen it with a possible Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway public-private partnership. Perhaps this is just a warm-up for such a partnership for the I-11, which could potentially even be a toll road.

Update: This May 18 article about the trade corridor running through Southern Idaho also does not mention CANAMEX, as though it doesn't already run through Idaho.

Also check out this more recent piece, Interstate 11: NAFTA Trade Corridor from June 21, 2016.

Appendix A:
You can see for yourself the overlap between these various entities.

  • John Halikowski: State Transportation Board, AMC, TTCA
  • Victor Flores: State Transportation Board, AMC, TTCA
  • Hank Rogers: State Transportation Board, AMC
  • Jack Sellers: State Transportation Board, AMC
  • Jim Kolbe: TTCA, AMC, formerly CANAMEX Coalition
  • James Manson: TTCA, AMC
  • Gary Magrino: TTCA, AMC
  • Mary Peters: TTCA, formerly of CANAMEX Coalition
  • Margie Emmerman, TTCA, AMC, formerly of CANAMEX Coalition
  • Bruce Wright, TTCA, AMC, formerly of CANAMEX Coalition
  • Tom Skancke Executive Director of I-11 Coalition, formerly CANAMEX Coalition
  • Dave Berry President of the I-11 Coalition, formerly AZ Governor's CANAMEX task force
Appendix B:
Below are some of the maps that portray I-11, sometimes in the context of a larger trade corridor and sometimes not.

From Interstate 11 Coalition's Steve Betts' presentation to the ACA on 1/11/2012

Figure 2. From MAG's 12/11/2013 Expanding Border Zones Statewide presentation
showing a different trade route along with CANAMEX

from Scott Omer's 3/14/14 Intermountain West Corridor presentation


Appendix C:

This is what Cherie Campbell, representing the Pima Association of Governments Regional Council, had to say about it at this meeting: "...As you know, the feds designated the CANAMEX corridor to extend from Canada to Mexico as a high-priority corridor probably, what, 15, 20 years ago. And it included portions of I-10 and I-19. And then with Map-21, the most recent federal transportation legislation, the addition of I-11 to that scenario became a reality. And that designation was only from Phoenix to the Las Vegas area. And ADOT, in fact, undertook a study of that particular route in a very specific manner, but also incorporated this larger concept of the Intermountain West Corridor and looking at the southern connectivity of a potential future I-11 and the need for that to extend southward to Mexico. In that effort, ADOT looked at a variety of alternatives. And the draft report that was issued earlier -- or late last year, did recommend that a focus occur an Alternative (C), which comes through the Pima County region and extends to Nogales, and that that route be considered for further study and further incorporation as a potential I-11 corridor, should that be designated in the future. So our board looked at that and believes that that was the right recommendation." (page 90-91 of feb 14, 2014 state transportation board notes)