ELKO — A top-ranking route for the future Interstate 11 to connect the Las Vegas valley with Northern Nevada and beyond eclipses the eastern segment of the state and spends more taxpayer money than necessary.
That was the message that Richard Howe, chairman of the White Pine County Board of Commissioners, presented to his Elko County counterparts at their Aug. 1 meeting. He is traveling around the state to garner support of I-11 following Highway 93 rather than Highway 95 through Nevada.
“What I’m asking Elko is to jump onboard with White Pine County … to influence the state to maybe take a second look,” Howe said. “I’m trying to convince you that 93 is the best route.”
The Canamex Corridor, as defined by U.S. Congress in the 1995 National Highway Systems Designation Act, was a joint effort with Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Utah and Montana, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation. Congress later designated the planned freeway between Las Vegas and Phoenix, the country’s only two major cities not connected by an interstate. A section of the interstate is now nearing completion in Boulder City, and the road will eventually reach all the way to Canada and Mexico.
In connection with the corridor, Congress also designated a route from the Las Vegas area to Interstate 80 in 2015, extending I-11 in Nevada.
NDOT ranked routes in western Nevada after hosting a series of public meetings in March. The rankings are being presented at meetings through August, and NDOT will make recommendations on which alternatives which will be further advanced in the future.
Although he didn’t have exact figures, Howe said because the route along Highway 93 would be shorter and not require the purchase of private land, it would be less expensive.
“It is the most logical, inexpensive route you can do,” he said.
Howe also proposed that building I-11 in eastern Nevada would help mobilize a marginalized segment of the state. The rest of the state’s “total disregard for eastern Nevada is obvious,” he said. We contribute many, many dollars that they don’t give us credit for.”
Another point he made was that building I-11 over Highway 93 would also increase safety on what is now a narrow road with few passing lanes.
“[Highway] 93 is a very dangerous, treacherous road,” he said. “It is a vital part of eastern Nevada.”
Elko County commissioners said they would consider supporting the proposed route with a resolution to be considered at a future meeting. Commissioner Rex Steninger pointed out that they have plenty of time.
The first section of I-11 to be built will be the section between Phoenix and Las Vegas. If all goes as planned, construction of the northerly section would not be started until the 2030s.
“I’m passionate about this,” Howe said. “I’m passionate about eastern Nevada.”