Why Interstate 11 Needs Planned Expansion Sooner Rather Than Later
The original Interstate highway network was completed in 1992, with over 47,000 miles of Interstate highways. There is no question as to how much economic impact this has had since completion. However, there have been no new Interstate infrastructure since 1992. That’s a long time, and it’s long overdue to expand one of our nation’s critical transportation networks. Introducing our nation’s newest Interstate highway: Interstate 11.
Background on Interstate 11
Interstate 11 has been a long time in the making. When it’s completed, it will provide a direct link between Las Vegas and Phoenix. These cities are the largest markets currently not connected by an Interstate highway. Both metropolitan areas are growing very, very quickly. The Las Vegas metropolitan area has more than 2 million people, however that does not include the massive amount of tourists that come to the area (41 million tourists a year). Phoenix currently has over 4.5 million people in their metropolitan area. Both areas are rapidly expanding. Right now the only way to get between both areas is via US 93, which goes through small towns with traffic lights. Truck traffic has increased on the route significantly. Experts are predicting the growth will not stop, and with more cars and trucks hitting the road, a new Interstate highway is needed.
The first leg of Interstate 11 is complete. Although only 2.5 miles long, it provides a bypass around Boulder City, which US 93 was the main route to get to Phoenix from Las Vegas. US 93 had low speed limits and many traffic lights through Boulder City and the bypass eliminates all of that, connecting back with US 93 just before the Hoover Dam.
Why Isn’t Interstate 11 Being Done All At Once?
This shouldn’t be a shocker, but it’s the money. This is a very expensive project, coming in at over $300 million dollars. Construction projects almost always happen in phases, as money allows and becomes more available.
Should the project be done all at once? Absolutely. This is a critical link between Las Vegas and Phoenix. It will provide a straight through high speed link between the two cities. Currently, it takes almost 5 hours to travel between the cities, and the completed highway will cut that down to 4, saving an hour, or 2 hours round trip.
Is Interstate 11 Being Constructed Correctly?
Ah, now here’s the billion dollar question. The entire 300 mile stretch of the highway will be a 4 lane road (2 lanes on each side). Most of that highway is rural, going through very few populated areas. Is there really a need to build a bigger highway? Inherently the answer is no, at least starting out. But in my honest opinion, I believe that it should be built right the first time.
Our nation’s Interstate highways were mostly built in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. We now have a 50+ year track record of highway maintenance. We know the costs of construction are rising well above the rate of inflation. Labor and materials cost a lot more now than they did back then.
With that said, I’m going to make the case that Interstate 11 is not being built correctly. In my opinion, this should be a 8 lane highway on both sides of the road. Yes, that would be a much more expensive option to take upfront, and would cost a lot more to maintain. However, it would save the long term costs of widening the highway and having to rebuild all of the bridges. And they should use longer lasting materials to construct the highway. The quality of construction has drastically improved since initial construction. The bridges that are being constructed today are rated to last at least 100 years.
We need to build Interstate highways (and other highways built to Interstate standards) that our grandchildren and great grandchildren can still enjoy without the worry of the highway either being functionally obsolete or structurally deficient. We as a country owe that to them, because our grandparents and great grandparents left us with the Interstate highway system and much of our country’s current infrastructure.
Not only that, the highways need to be 4 lanes on each side for emergencies, such as disaster responses, accidents, etc. What if people need to evacuate in mass to and from both cities? You can predict the headlines: Interstate 11 jammed while people are fleeing Phoenix (or Las Vegas), drivers running out of gas with absolutely nowhere to go. Of course, you would never hope that would ever happen, but this world is crazy and you never know what’s going to happen. We see and witness crazy events around the country and the world every single day.
Here’s the headline you’d want to see during an event like this: Interstate 11 provides access as an emergency route out of the city with no backups. You see, we’ve become a country that reacts to events and doesn’t prepare for them, which end up costing a lot of money. Would you rather spend $600 million today on Interstate 11 to get it as perfect as possible, or wait 10 to 20 years, incur maintenance costs, then widen the interstate and rebuild the bridges for a total of over a billion dollars?
That’s America for you, this is how we build things. It’s time for change. Not only do we need to pass an infrastructure bill, but change the process on how things are built. Spend the extra money and find ways to pay for it. When that happens in mass, you will see a country with an economy so big that everyone can benefit from it. Unemployment would decrease. Overall pay would increase. And that would be an exciting thing to watch unfold for this country. The construction of Interstate 11 is a good thing, but it could be a whole lot better. Shame that it’s not.