Public input is essential to project’s Environmental Assessment
NOGALES – The next stage of a project to improve State Route 189, the 3.75-mile highway connecting the Mariposa Port of Entry with Interstate 19, begins with a public hearing Tuesday, Jan. 31, for the community to review and comment on a Draft Environmental Assessment.
Public input is essential to this assessment, which is part of the review process required by the federal government and details the need for the project, alternatives proposed including a no-build option, environmental impacts and recommendations.
The public hearing will be from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, in the cafeteria of Nogales High School, 1905 N. Apache Blvd. A presentation at 5:45 p.m. will be followed by a formal comment period for all members of the public.
The investments proposed for SR 189, including a flyover ramp to northbound I-19, are intended to significantly improve the highway for Nogales residents, commercial vehicles and personal travelers, enhance safety and reduce congestion for many years to come.
The Nogales Mariposa commercial port, which is among the nation’s busiest, is a hub for trade between Arizona and Mexico that has an estimated value of $30 billion annually.
Other work proposed includes adding a raised median along SR 189 and improving intersections with Grand Avenue and Target Range Road.
A $25 million appropriation passed by the Arizona Legislature and signed by Governor Doug Ducey aimed at accelerating this project has made it possible for work to start in 2019, two years earlier than originally planned. In addition, $40 million in federal funds will go toward SR 189 improvements.
ADOT Director John Halikowski said investing in SR 189 is important to trade and tourism not only for the region but for the entire state.
“ADOT has worked closely with the community to serve the best interests of both international commerce and the people who live and work in Nogales,” Halikowski said. “Now we look to the community to review the alternatives and tell us what they think.”
The Draft Environmental Assessment is available on ADOT’s website at azdot.gov/SR189DraftEA. Printed copies are available at Nogales City Hall, 777 N. Grand Ave., and the Nogales/Santa Cruz County Public Library, 518 N. Grand Ave.
Comments, which will be accepted until Feb. 14, can be provided at the hearing, through the ADOT website (azdot.gov/SR189DraftEA) or by mail to 1655 W. Jackson St., Mail Drop 126F, Phoenix, AZ 85007.
While moving toward the start of this project, ADOT continues to seek funding for additional improvements to SR 189, including a new ramp for traffic on southbound I-19 to enter southbound SR 189. Funding for those improvements, estimated to cost up to $75 million, isn’t currently available.
One possibility is a public-private partnership similar to the one being used to build the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway in Phoenix. Under that approach, ADOT would have additional options for building the remaining improvements, including bundling both phases into a single job and adding a long-term maintenance program to better manage ongoing costs.
“We look forward to working with key leaders in the community, representing both the public and private sector, to find a solution that meets the needs of the community, and positions Nogales and Arizona for continued growth and development,” Halikowski said.
The proposed SR 189 investments build on many improvements to transportation infrastructure and processes connected with the Mariposa Port of Entry. In 2014, ADOT completed $1.5 million in improvements to the SR 189 corridor that included synchronized signal timing and improvements at the SR 189 interchange with I-19. In 2012, ADOT received a Best Use of Innovation Award from America’s Transportation Awards for a project using technology to speed up processing of trucks crossing the border.