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

Friday, March 13, 2015

AOYC: It’s time to turn up the heat! FHWA In Favor of Building Freeway!


March 12, 2015
On March 5th, 2015, the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) released their Record of Decision (ROD) in favor of building the South Mountain Freeway. The ROD is a document that gives the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) the approval to begin acquiring right of ways and to begin construction of the 22-mile-long freeway that blasts through three ridges of Moadak Do’ag (South Mountain). Moadak Do’ag is sacred to all O’otham tribes and holds cultural significance to eighteen other tribes.

This project has been opposed by members of the Gila River Indian Community since the 1980s. There are numerous harmful impacts of freeway construction which include destroying the prehistoric villages of Villa Buena and Pueblo del Alamo, the destruction of threatened/endangered animal habitats, and the destruction of plants that are central to traditional O’otham culture. Environmental impact studies of the 202 freeway also state that the habitat for wild horses in Gila River would be irreversibly lost if the freeway is built, and that no alternative habitats for the wild horses exist. One of the Gila River Indian Community’s entertainment destinations is named after the wild horses that the freeway would destroy if it is built. The path of the approved design also would destroy many groundwater wells, with no replacement wells planned for by ADOT. It is for these reasons and many more that in 2012, the Sierra Club named the South Mountain freeway one of the worst transportation projects in the United States.

Read more (seriously, follow the link and read the rest)...

Friday, March 6, 2015

Interstate 11 might exacerbate cancer risks in Nevada

There's a major health concern surrounding the construction of the first part of Interstate 11. Scientists found asbestos at the site where the Boulder City Bypass would be built. It seems that some Nevada officials are trying to suppress the investigation of the extent of the problem. Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral fiber, is likely already causing health problems such as the rare cancer called mesothelioma in local residents, but construction of new roads would make it all the more worse as it gets stirred up in the air.

The I-11 is a big deal to the state of Nevada (and to Arizona). Construction was delayed on the Boulder City Bypass, which is considered part of the I-11, for several months but has been approved by NDOT. Blasting will begin in May or June. It does not seem implausible that state officials would try keep this quiet, even at the risk of further endangering residents.

The Las Vegas Review Journal said of the Nevada Governor, "[Brian] Sandoval called the bypass one of the most important infrastructure projects for Southern Nevada and a key link in what could become a new Interstate 11 linking Las Vegas and Phoenix."

Michael Kies, of the Arizona Department of Transportation was quoted by the Mojave Valley Daily News, pointing out the importance of the corridor.
If the economy of Mexico does grow ... we’ll have a lot more trade coming into our state... And so, this interaction between Arizona, Nevada and Mexico, creating components in our state, selling them to Mexico for assembly, and moving that product to market, becomes the justification for a new trade corridor between Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico.
The study, of which Kies is part, includes a corridor running south to the border in addition to the federally recognized Interstate between Phoenix and Las Vegas replacing Route 93 with one more fit for freight traffic. It is part of the CANAMEX Corridor or what is now called, with perhaps a somewhat different route, the Intermountain West Corridor, running up through Canada as well.

The news that new roads could cause health problems is being treated as an inconvenience. State officials in Nevada doing more than just denying there's a problem. As the New York Times describes,
Upon learning of the report, the Nevada Department of Health forced the epidemiologist, Francine Baumann of the University of Hawaii, to withdraw a presentation of the findings at a scientific conference and revoked her access to the state cancer registry. Dr. Metcalf and Dr. Buck offered to meet with state officials but say they were rebuffed.
In the years since, “no one from the health department has ever contacted us to ask for any information about the minerals,” Dr. Metcalf said.
In an interview with KNPR news and elsewhere, state officials reference the cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestos rates in the state of Nevada in general to be no higher than other states. Yet they seem to ignore the specific study area of Southern Nevada and the Boulder City region in particular. The study results also seemed to indicate, based on age and sex, that the rates of mesothelioma pointed to an environmental cause rather than residents' past occupational exposure to asbestos.

KNPR reported, "Buck said when asbestos gets into the lungs it causes a whole host of diseases.
'All it takes is some wind,' Buck said. 'Any kind of disturbances to those fragile desert surfaces will create dust and the fibers become airborne.'”

If Nevada took this asbestos concern seriously, it may be a big blow to the trade corridor. This would not be the first health risk brought by a massive transportation project, of course and would not be the only health risk brought by the I-11. The corridor is likely to be built in sections, and each one will have to involve a NEPA study. The asbestos issue seems to have come out after the NEPA study for the Boulder City Bypass, but my impact other sections of the Interstate.

Further reading: