Interstate 11: Trade opportunities abound for Arizona’s exporters

 

 

I-11 photo

In 2012, the President signed into law the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). Among other long-term highway authorizations, the Act designated U.S. 93 as the future Interstate-11. This important interstate will link together Phoenix and Las Vegas, the two largest American cities not currently connected by an interstate highway. In a bipartisan effort, Arizona Representatives Gosar and Kirkpatrick, along with Nevada Representatives Titus and Hardy, introduced H.R.1612 — Intermountain West Corridor Development Act of 2015 this spring. This bill would further extend I-11, creating an important trade corridor for the movement of freight. Arizona Senators McCain and Flake, and Nevada Senators Heller and Reid, introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

Cooperation between the states of Nevada and Arizona is helping make I-11 a reality. In November 2014, the Arizona and Nevada Departments of Transportation, with assistance from the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, Maricopa Association of Governments, the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration, jointly released the I-11 & Intermountain West Corridor Study, which outlined a shared vision for the interstate corridor. Most recently, in April of this year, Nevada hosted a groundbreaking for the first 15-mile segment of the four-lane interstate.

Trade is critical to the economies of Arizona and Nevada, as well as the entire Southwestern United States. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, Arizona exported $16.25 billion in manufactured goods in 2014. Roughly 10 million people live in Northern Mexico, making it an important market for goods made in Arizona and a gateway to the rest of Latin America.  Mexico and Canada are already Arizona’s two most important trade partners. These are markets with which Arizona has a trade surplus – $28 million with Mexico and $727 with Canada in 2013 according to the International Trade Administration.

Trade with Mexico and Canada provides enormous benefits to our local economy. A study by the Business Roundtable found that one in five U.S. jobs are linked to international trade. These are high paying jobs with multiplier effects that ripple through the economy by creating more demand for housing, retail, medical services, and other local businesses Importantly, small businesses make up 87.5% of all exporters in Arizona, and represent over a quarter of Arizona’s value in international exports.

While the current statistics are impressive, I-11 presents an opportunity to exponentially grow our export-oriented economy. The Federal Highway Administration projected in its 2012 Freight Analysis Study that exports from Arizona to Mexico could quadruple by 2040. Targeted growth industries identified by the Arizona Commerce Authority, such as Advanced Manufacturing, Aerospace and Defense, Information Technology, and Optics and Photonics are primed to benefit from the increased trade opportunities associated with a modernized interstate system.

I-11 can help Arizona’s exporters leverage new and expanding ports in Mexico and Canada as well as existing ports on the U.S. West Coast. As the volume of freight entering the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach continues to increase, I-11 can serve as an important alternate route to congested California freeways. It can also be part of the solution for ports in the Northwest looking to get goods to markets throughout the Western United States.

I-11 represents one of the most exciting opportunities we have seen in many years to advance Arizona’s economy. By building upon current industry strengths and leveraging existing assets, such as regional land and water ports, Arizona’s businesses have a golden opportunity to take exports to the next level.

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