Arizona 25th in export volume: Interstate 11 could bolster Mexico-to-Nevada corridor

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New data reveals Arizona’s middling role as a foreign trade partner and highlights the arguments of some, who hope for a new interstate highway to bolster trade with Mexico and throughout the region.

The U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday released its “Exports by Metropolitan Area Report” for the third quarter, providing an update of comparable trade stats on imports and exports; while the Arizona Department of Transportation continued its outreach for public participation in a process to determine if and where to build Interstate 11.

According to Census Bureau trade data compiled through October, Arizona ranks near the middle of the pack among U.S. states for exports of manufactured commodities and slightly closer to the top for exports of non-manufactured goods.

Year-to-date, the state has exported an estimated $12.7 billion in manufactured goods, ranking it 25th among states.

The top five include Texas ($155.8 billion), California ($93.7 billion), Michigan ($39 billion), Illinois ($38.8 billion) and Ohio ($35.5 billion).

The bottom five include South Dakota ($990 million), Montana ($751 million), Alaska ($352 million), the U.S. Virgin Islands ($330 million) and Hawaii ($252 million).

Arizona ranked at number 14 among states for export of non-manufactured goods with a year-to-date total of $2.8 billion.

Texas leads in non-manufactured goods with $68.7 billion in exports; rounding out the top five are Louisiana ($19.8 billion), California ($18.1 billion), Washington ($10.95 billion) and New York ($10.9 billion).

The bottom five include the U.S. Virgin Islands ($1 million), Wyoming ($55 million), Vermont ($60 million), South Dakota ($82 million) and Hawaii ($104 million).

The top five Arizona exports in 2018 were civilian aircraft, engines and parts with $2.2 billion, followed by copper ores and concentrates ($1 billion), electronic integrated circuits ($936 million), processors and controllers for integrated circuits ($934 million) and bombs, mines and ammunition ($627 million).

Conversely, the top five imports into the Arizona market in 2018 were machines for manufacturing semiconductors ($672 million); machines for the reception, conversion, transmission or regeneration of voice, images or other data ($659 million); tomatoes, fresh or chilled ($547 million), fresh of chilled chilies ($448 million); and insulated wire sets for vehicles, ships and aircraft ($411 million).

Arizona has accounted for just 1.3% of U.S. exports of manufactured and 1.4% of non-manufactured goods so far this year, according to the bureau’s report.

Interstate 11 update

For the state to capture a bigger share of the foreign-trade pie, some officials believe a new interstate freeway is needed.

The proposed I-11 would  — if built  — connect the port of entry at Nogales via a 280-mile freeway to Wickenburg, where the upgraded U.S. 93 would complete a trade corridor from Mexico through Arizona to markets in Nevada and, eventually, Canada.

“I-11 has been identified as a critical piece of multi-modal infrastructure that would support and connect the economies of Arizona and Nevada. It also could be connected to a larger north-south transportation corridor, linking Mexico and Canada … to provide a high-priority, access-controlled transportation corridor that has the potential to enhance the movement of people and freight, and facilitate regional connectivity, trade, communications and technology in an ever-evolving global marketplace,” officials stated at the I-11 & Intermountain West Corridor Study website (origin.i11study.com).

According to an ADOT release earlier this week, the agency has received more than 12,000 submissions as part of its Draft Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement, a process needed to develop recommendations to be released next year

“Each submission is logged, evaluated by the project team, and sorted according to the topics covered in the comments and questions,” officials stated. “Ultimately, the Federal Highway Administration and the Arizona Department of Transportation will respond to public and agency comments on the Draft Tier 1 EIS when the Final Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement is published.”

In its report, ADOT said it may potentially recommend a selected route for the new freeway or suggest a no-build option. Though the public outreach period for the first-phase impact study has already concluded, the agency still seeks public comments about the project.

Those who still wish to comment may e-mail I-11ADOTStudy@hdrinc.com; send snail-mail to I-11 Tier 1 EIS Study Team c/o ADOT Communications, 1655 W. Jackson Street, Mail Drop 126F, Phoenix, AZ 85007; or call the bilingual project information line at 1-844-544-8049.

Mixed response

While some officials are eager for the new project to move forward, the I-11 proposal has plenty of detractors as well.

A report from Capitol Media Services published in Daily Independent in October revealed concerns from environmental groups and one Republican lawmaker.

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said officials should consider other transportation modes, such as rail, before adding to an already overwhelmed roadway infrastructure system.

Randy Serraglio, southwest conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, pointed out a greater need for increased road capacity in urban centers, rather than new construction in environmentally sensitive rural areas.

Their views countered those of Ariz. Gov. Doug Ducey, who praised the proposal as a necessary investment for future of the state.

“So, it’s a long-term, something that will really benefit our state and allow us to be the player that we’re going to be in terms of economic growth and development and trade,” the governor said.

If approved and depending on the final path chosen, the interstate project could cost anywhere from $3.1 billion to $7.3 billion to complete, according to estimates.

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