Buckeye anxious to see I-11, regardless of route

Buckeye city officials were not thrilled to see a new alignment for Interstate 11 around their city.

But they are thrilled that the long-discussed project is moving forward.

Interstate 11’s potential impact on the city “is absolutely huge,” said David Rodrique, deputy city manager and Buckeye’s economic development director.

Creation of the north-south highway will bolster the city’s efforts to draw new industry, particularly in the logistics field, and new residents to fill those jobs, he said.

The recommended route in the draft Tier One Environmental Impact Statement for I-11 had it turning north along the Estrella Mountains as it came out of the Tucson area, dipping into Goodyear near the southern border of the Estrella Mountain Ranch development before it crossed the Gila River and headed west between the riverbed and downtown Buckeye.

The updated and now preferred route, revealed in July in the final Tier One EIS, crosses federal Bureau of Land Management property well south of Buckeye until it connects with SR 85 about four miles north of Lewis Prison. It then co-locates with SR 85 until it hits Interstate 10 and turns west along the I-10 corridor until it resumes its northern path near 359th Avenue.

The original route carved a new east-west transportation corridor through Buckeye, which would have allowed many more opportunities for economic development along its interchanges. Co-locating the highway with SR 85 and I-10 does not provide those additional siting options and also creates a potential future problem with traffic volume along the existing routes.

“We think those are short-sighted savings,” Rodrique said about future traffic issues along the multi-highway corridor. “We like the earlier version better.”

But the city is setting those concerns aside and will move forward, strongly supporting whatever it takes to make I-11 a reality.

The new highway is a big piece in the continuing evolution of the fastest growing city in America.

Buckeye began as a rural, agriculture-focused community located just a little out of touch with the rest of the Phoenix metropolitan area. Then the Valley of the Sun started growing west. Buckeye capitalized on its abundant cheap land, approving a raft of residential developments that helped the city turn into a bedroom community.

Now it’s ready to become, as Rodrique put it, “a balanced community” with housing, retail and jobs. Transportation access is critical to that vision. The I-11 project will bring people into and through Buckeye, and give residents easier options for going north to Las Vegas or south to Tucson and Mexico. And it will position businesses to move goods easily.

Buckeye’s population in the 2020 census was 91,502. That’s an astounding growth since 2000, when the census recorded only 6,537 people in Buckeye. The city expects its population to be 200,000 by 2030 and eventually grow to more than 1.5 million — the size of the current City of Phoenix. The city encompasses 640 square miles and is only 5 percent built out, Rodrique told KJZZ radio in an August interview.

Categories: Arizona, Opportunities