ADOT

Sonoran Corridor: The route ADOT selected goes from El Toro Road at I-19, east along a new alignment, then north on an extension of Alvernon Way to Old Vail Connection Road; it would follow that road east to connect with I-10 at Rita Road.

After years of study and public input, ADOT on Friday announced the route of the Sonoran Corridor — a 20.47-mile stretch that would connect interstates 10 and 19.

The chosen route goes through the heart of Sahuarita, but don’t start packing if the line is drawn through your house. It will be years before it’s built, if at all, and a lot could change.

The process began in 2014, and initially there were 10 prospective routes, later reduced to three in 2019. The route ADOT selected goes from El Toro Road at I-19, east along a new alignment, then north on an extension of Alvernon Way to Old Vail Connection Road; it would follow that road east to connect with I-10 at Rita Road.

Along the way, it would cut through the pecan groves and cross through Sahuarita Heights, an unincorporated area east of town.

Friday’s decision ends the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement/Record of Decision process, which included identifying possible routes and looking at the potential broader impacts of the project.

Tier 2, which has not been funded and is unlikely to get underway anytime soon, includes obtaining 14 federal, state and local permits — everything from the federal Clean Water Act to the local Fugitive Dust Activity Permit. It’s a more detailed process than Tier 1, and could be influenced by population shifts, growth and other factors.

Friday’s decision indicated the route could be built in stages as independent projects rather than all at once.

Why do we need it?

The corridor has long been touted to address truck traffic, most of it out of Mexico, as the region grows. It would allow northbound vehicles to exit Interstate 19 nearly 20 miles south of the current interchange with I-10, cut across Sahuarita and reconnect at Rita Road, avoiding congestion in Tucson. It would not cross onto the San Xavier District tribal land, which at one point was considered for the route.

Sahuarita Mayor Tom Murphy said Friday that the corridor offers economic development opportunities but that’s all far down the road. He said Friday’s announcement — like earlier talk about the proposed Interstate 11 — often cause people to get anxious needlessly.

“There’s a whole process in place,” Murphy said. “It doesn’t mean anything’s happening tomorrow by any stretch of the imagination.”

FICO, owners of the pecan orchards, said in a statement Friday that they have been participating in the ADOT process, “and the alignment announced today is not surprising. The land-use plan for our farm anticipates the Sonoran Corridor. Like our land-use plan, the Sonoran Corridor is some years off in the future.”

The Tier 1 study was completed about 18 months later than expected. At the outset, ADOT said the criteria that would determine the route were: anticipated growth, mobility, system linkages, economic benefits, environment and “constructability.”

The route is a 2,000-foot swath that will be narrowed to 400 feet in Tier 2.

According to the study, the route would cut 16.6 minutes off travel time and provide direct access to areas of growth “in the northerly portion near Tucson, I-10 and the Town of Sahuarita.”

The study identified 54 residential units in the 2,000-foot corridor, and said the path was made up of 54.03 percent minorities and 17.72 percent low-income residents. It also noted the Anza Trail crosses all corridor alternatives and found 28 cultural sites in the path, 232 acres of active farmland, 218 acres of riparian area and 50 acres of Sonoran Desert tortoise habitat.

For more information on the project, go to: azdot.gov/sonorancorridor.

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