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Canamex (Corridor 26)

Routing

The CANAMEX Corridor runs from Nogales, Arizona, north to Sweetgrass, Montana. It begins at the Business Loop I-19 (old U.S. 89) port of entry in Nogales and heads north via Interstate 19 to Tucson. Then it follows Interstate 10 from Tucson to Phoenix, U.S. 60 from Phoenix northwest to near Wickenburg, and U.S. 93 from near Wickenburg to Las Vegas, Nevada. From Las Vegas north to Sweetgrass, the CANAMEX corridor will follow Interstate 15 through Mesquite in Nevada; St. George, Cedar City, Nephi, Provo, Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Trementon in Utah; Pocatello and Idaho Falls in Idaho; and Dillon, Butte, Helena, and Great Falls in Montana.

The CANAMEX Draft Plan for the Corridor is available at the CANAMEX.org web page (public comment for the draft plan ended on March 15, 2001). According to the Great Falls Tribune, since 1999, the CANAMEX Coalition has worked on a plan to facilitate trade and tourism on the CANAMEX Corridor stretching from Mexico City to Edmonton, Alberta.

There are five key initiatives outlined in the CANAMEX plan (taken from the Great Falls Tribune):

  • Smart freight corridor. Developing the CANAMEX Corridor as a major trade route will require technology-driven investments, the plan says. States will need to operate on shared "Information Technology Systems" that would provide information to the public, law enforcement, emergency personnel and truckers. For example, an ITS system would allow emergency response teams to track a truck carrying hazardous materials to ensure a quick response time in case of a spill.
  • Smart tourist corridor. The CANAMEX Corridor includes such tourism highlights as the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Targhee National Forest and Glacier National Park. The plan suggests that CANAMEX states along with tourism groups and business communities develop and market new tourism themes and products along the corridor such as the "History of the American West." Information on how tourists can use and preserve national parks also could be part of the program. Information Technology Systems similar to those envisioned for the transportation industry would aid quicker emergency response times and eliminate dead spots in cellular coverage. Computerized roadside kiosks would provide information on everything from hunting licenses to border crossing requirements and hotels.
  • Telecommunications access for rural areas. The CANAMEX draft plan identifies telecommunications infrastructure as a key to growth along the corridor. It calls for installation of broadband technologies such as DSL (copper wire) and fiber optic cables throughout the area. The plan would involve government and private telecommunications companies in developing a north-south broadband backbone along the corridor.
  • Corridor Highway Improvements. The plan proposes roughly $2 billion in additional highway improvements along the CANAMEX Corridor. Most are focused on easing traffic congestion and improving safety in urban areas. Most targeted areas for improvements are the urban areas of Tuscon, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Ogden, Provo and Pocatello.
  • Smart Process Partnerships. Interstate cooperation is a key element of the CANAMEX vision. The plan calls for integration of e-government services such as license renewal and business registration between states, creation of an e-signature program and other innovations to create a "borderless economy."

A North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Corridor

The CANAMEX Corridor, like the Interstate 35 and Camino Real Corridors, were added to the list of high priority corridors in 1995 with the passage of the NHS legislation. CANAMEX is another provide NAFTA corridor that would facilitate easy access for trade across the borders of Mexico and Canada.

Some of the work that's been directly attributed to the CANAMEX Corridor is the Port of Entry along Interstate 19 in Nogales, Arizona. There is also an "intermodal transportation center" proposed for Las Vegas, Nevada. A test to automate the clearance of commercial border crossings was performed both there and in Texas. It is unclear if this test is ongoing.

Interstate 11

Interstate 11 is proposed by the authors of the Roads and Bridges Interstate 2000 article. Keep in mind that this does not mean that there are definitive plans by FHWA, AASHTO, or any state DOT to construct an Interstate highway between Las Vegas and Phoenix. Here is the entry from that article for Interstate 11:

Interstate 11 Phoenix to Las Vegas: These two metropolitan areas of 2.6 million and 1.1 million population respectively are the nation's closest large metropolitan areas without a direct interstate connection, and the cities remain among the nation's fastest growing areas. In the future this route might be extended to the fast-growing Reno and Boise areas.

I have not heard any other information about this potential Interstate highway corridor anywhere else, but U.S. 60 is already a four-lane highway for much of its length between Phoenix and Wickenburg.

Arizona

The CANAMEX Corridor follows Interstate 19 from Nogales north to Tucson, then heads northwest on Interstate 10 to Phoenix. At Phoenix, the corridor follows U.S. 60 and U.S. 93 northwest to Kingman and Hoover Dam.

Interstate 10 through Tucson is currently being widened and improved to accommodate increased traffic needs in that metropolitan area. Although no additional freeways are planned, the city is discussing other local city street improvements to improve traffic flow both through and around the city.

U.S. 60 and U.S. 93 between Phoenix and Las Vegas is slowly being upgraded to expressway (four lane divided with at-grade access) status. ADOT is planning some enhancements to its sections of U.S. 93. Much of the highway is slated for upgrade to four-lane, expressway standards. According to Richard C. Moeur, there are no current plans by ADOT to upgrade the U.S. 93 Corridor to limited-access freeway status, since it would be far too expensive given the traffic volume and the projected funding. The first four-lane projects between Interstate 40 and Wickenburg will begin construction soon, and design will begin shortly for the section between Morristown and the junction of U.S. 60 with Arizona Loop 303. For more information, check out Alan Hamilton's Arizona U.S. 93 webpage.

On May 25, 1999, Mr. Moeur wrote, "Over the past 10 years, ADOT has focused money and work on [its] high-priority corridors. The first of these corridors, SR 69 and SR 87, are complete or nearly completed. ADOT is now turning its attention to the next set of corridors, including US 93, SR 68, and US 89, among others.

"This study is indeed to look at full access control (e.g. freeway) between Interstate 40 and Wikieup. However, this is the only segment of U.S. 93 to my knowledge that is being considered for upgrading to full freeway at this time. The rest of U.S. 60/93 between Phoenix and Hoover Dam is being upgraded to four-lane divided highway (non-freeway) status as time and statewide resources permit.

"I-whatever still will not be appropriate for this corridor, as many of the other segments under construction (Kingman-Wash Bridge, Morristown - SR-303) are only being constructed to four-lane divided highway status. The extra cost for access control rights and interchanges would be prohibitive at this time, and could be better applied elsewhere."

On May 30, 1999, in misc.transport.road, Alan Hamilton wrote an update on the progress of upgrading U.S. 93 between Wikieup and Interstate 40:

I did go to the U.S. 93 meeting in Wikieup, AZ. There wasn't much local opposition to the four-laning project. The locals suffer from the very heavy traffic just as much as anyone. The only real controversy was about the new Interstate 40 interchange. The trumpet interchange will be replaced with a larger one. This still leaves the low-capacity ramp going from east to south, but very little traffic goes that way anyway.

The controversy was about a local road that goes north from the interchange. The new interchange will be a freeway-to-freeway interchange, with no grade connections allowed. ADOT's proposal is a new grade separation over Interstate 40 to the west, which would work its way back to an interchange on U.S. 93. It's a heck of a detour, and I'm not surprised people were upset with it. IMHO, it should be at least a half-diamond interchange so traffic could get to/from Kingman.

And yes indeed, the new highway will be controlled access. It will be first constructed with grade crossings, leaving room for interchanges later. When "later" will be is unclear.

Hoover Dam Bypass

One of the more expensive segments of this corridor will be the new bridge over the Colorado River near Hoover Dam - cost probably over $100 million, including new approach highways. The chosen alternative ("Sugarloaf") will be to construct a new bridge downstream from the dam. The bypass will be a four-lane, divided highway about 3.2 miles long that will include numerous wildlife crossings as well as a 1,900-foot bridge that will cross the Colorado River at a height of more than 900 feet. Construction is scheduled to start in late 2002 and take about five years to complete. It is budgeted at $198 million.

A webpage dedicated to this is hosted by the official Hoover Dam Bypass Organization. It shows alternative routings, project schedules, and other information.

Other Hoover Dam Bypass Alternatives

An Interstate highway going directly over the dam will not work without major modifications. As Patrick Humphrey points out, the dam itself would have to be widened, which would be very difficult to do. It would be difficult to support, since the piers on the gorge side would be upwards of 800 feet tall, which would be one thing -- but what about the support piers on the Lake Mead side? The water's nearly that deep on the Lake Mead side. In addition, there's a rather large parking garage right up the hill from the landing on the Nevada end of the bridge, and there are two intake towers on the lake side of the dam, with their access roads from the dam itself.

It would be easier to move the whole thing down the gorge a mile or so. Bridging that stretch would be difficult, but could be done, and it'd preserve the tourist site ... and the new road could be routed south around Boulder City to hook back up with either U.S. 93 west of Boulder City or with U.S. 95, which is slated for full freeway development between Laughlin and the U.S. 93 junction southeast of Las Vegas.

One article in a trade magazine several months ago (late 1997) was about a proposed Hoover Dam area bridge. Mark Bozanich says that the focus of the article was on design visualization -- that is, the use of computer graphic enhanced photos to engage in visualization "what-if" scenarios. The article showed pictures of both a cable-stayed and a deck arch option for the Hoover Dam Bridge. The deck arch design seemed to be the preferred option. The bridge site was a few thousand feet down stream from Hoover Dam. Both designs included a four-lane roadway. The project was a joint effort of both Nevada and Arizona DOT.

Another possibility considered was to route such a freeway across the river near the Nevada 163/Arizona 68 bridge that connects Bullhead City, Arizona, and Laughlin, Nevada. Then Interstate 11 could potentially follow U.S. 95 north to U.S. 93. This would avoid the Boulder City - Hoover Dam area entirely, and it pushes forward an NDOT plan to widen U.S. 95 to four lanes between the Nevada 163 Junction and U.S. 93. While this possibility will not help alleviate traffic in the Boulder City - Hoover Dam area, which is normally at a crawl, it would provide a viable alternative for trucks and through traffic. This upgrade may still occur, simply because of the rapid pace of growth in Laughlin and Bullhead City and the planned widening of U.S. 95 to four lanes between Nevada 163 and U.S. 93.

Hoover Dam Bypass as a "Focus Project"

The Spring 1999 AASHTO Quarterly indicated that the Hoover Dam Bypass is considered on of the major improvements from the TEA-21 legislation:

Since its construction in the 1930s, the Hoover Dam has provided a critical source of power for the entire southwest by harnessing the energy of the waters of the Colorado River, which run between Arizona and Nevada. Although it is marveled as a monumental engineering feat, its architects never envisioned that the dam's crest would ultimately serve as part of a major highway corridor connecting the states of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Montana to our neighbors in Mexico and Canada.

Yet today, some 12,000 vehicles cross the crest each day and almost one in five of those are heavy trucks. Located on U.S. 93, the crossing at the Hoover Dam is a two-lane facility that is narrow, winding and steep. Compounding the dangerous geographic hazards are the thousands of pedestrians traversing the highway daily as they explore the Hoover Dam and Visitor Center. The need for a bypass bridge has been apparent for many years; but finding the wherewithal to finance the estimated $200 million project has been a major obstacle.

With the passage of TEA-21, the prospects for a bypass bridge are looking increasingly bright. The legislation not only provides specific funds for the bypass, but it expands funding in the Federal Lands Highways program and opens up new discretionary funding under the National Corridor Planning and Development program. Arizona received $41 million under the High Priority Projects program (Sec. 1602) which have all been dedicated to the bypass. Arizona and Nevada jointly applied for funding under the Federal Lands Highways program (Sec. 1115) in Fiscal Year 1999 and received $4 million towards design costs. TEA-21 specifically highlights the Hoover Dam project in Sec. 1115 by recommending "a project to build a replacement of the federally owned bridge over the Hoover Dam in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area between Nevada and Arizona."

Arizona and Nevada have also submitted a joint application for funding under the newly created National Corridor Planning and Development program (Sec. 1118). That program authorizes $140 million annually for coordinated planning, design and construction of corridors of national significance. And fortunately, the Hoover Dam is located on the CANAMEX corridor one of the major U.S. highway linkages between Mexico and Canada. Federal Highways has been leading the efforts to complete the final environmental impact statement that should be finalized this summer. The record of decision that will follow on the alternative sites evaluated will officially announce FHWA's course of action. Final design work can begin this fall, with construction of the crossing scheduled to begin in 2002. Construction is expected to be completed by 2007. Although total funding for the project is not yet in hand, TEA-21 has provided the necessary jump- start needed to begin imagining the transformation of a dream to a reality.

Nevada

Continuing northwest from the Hoover Dam Bypass, upgrades are planned to the stretch of U.S. 93 and U.S. 95 between the dam and the beginning of Interstate 515. Freeway upgrades will be applied to this entire section of highway as funding permits. It is unclear if the Interstate 515 designation will be extended along with the freeway upgrades.

The corridor merges with Interstate 15-40 Economic Lifeline Corridor 16 in Las Vegas, and they run tandem to Mesquite, Nevada. For more on Interstate 15 projects in Las Vegas, please go to the Corridor 16 page.

Utah

A variety of improvements are planned or proposed for the Interstate 15 Corridor through Utah. At the southern end of the state, a St. George Beltway has been proposed, which would provide increased access for that rapidly growing area of the state.

Interstate 15 has been under significant reconstruction for most of the latter 1990s in the Wasatch Front region of Utah, between Provo and Ogden. Much of the work has been related to the 2004 Winter Olympics to be held in the Salt Lake City region. Interstate 15 is being expanded and widened, and a parallel, north-south light rail system is being constructed. The north-south line, which will relieve pressure from the Interstate 15 corridor, but mostly serve commuting purposes, may open as early as Thanksgiving 1999, and UTA is betting that it will be popular enough to spur additional interest in the east-west line.

Another project is the east-west light rail, which appear to be in funding limbo. The recent Olympics scandal, which is related to kickbacks and bribes to Olympic committee members, has made some federal politicians hostile toward giving more money to Salt Lake City's infrastructure. This line is as important as the north-south line since it would better serve the Olympics facilities by connecting the airport with the University of Utah, which is the site of the competitors dorms and the opening and closing ceremonies.

The interchange between Interstates 15 and 80 (locally known as 'Nest of Vipers' or 'The Snakepit') through Salt Lake City was completely overhauled as a result of the late 1990s/early 2000s improvements. For a time, Interstate 80 was closed, with traffic forced to use Interstate 215 or city streets through downtown Salt Lake City. In November 2000, westbound Interstate 80 was returned to service as a through route. With that opening, the major mid-valley interchange at I-15/I-80/U-201 is now mostly open, with connections from Interstate 80 westbound to Utah 201 westbound, Utah 201 eastbound to Interstate 80 eastbound, and Interstate 80 westbound to Interstate 15 southbound all open. The link from Utah 201 eastbound to Interstate 15 northbound will probably not open until Summer 2001, and the eastbound Interstate 80 link to southbound Interstate 15 is still closed for the same duration, which means that eastbound traffic must exit Interstate 80 in downtown Salt Lake City. Interstate 15 is completely open south of the south Interstate 215 junction with four lanes in each direction. The HOVs, which will occupy the fifth lanes, will open when the rest of the project is completed in Summer 2001.

The reconstruction of Interstate 15 through the Salt Lake Valley and Wasatch Front in Utah is part of the CANAMEX Corridor improvements. For complete, up-to-date information on the Interstate 15 Reconstruction project, check out www.i-15.com. This page also indicates any closures or route changes during the course of reconstruction. The main focus has been on "I-15 South" for this project; the other major projects are the Legacy Highway and I-15 North.

One major component of the planned upgrade of the Interstate 15/CANAMEX Corridor is the proposed Legacy Highway, which is planned to run parallel to Interstate 15 between Brigham City and Nephi. The initial segment under development between 2000 and 2004, the Legacy Parkway, is located between Interstate 215 at 2100 North to the area of the I-15/US 89 interchange in Farmington. According to UDOT, traffic studies show that the 13-mile four lane highway, in conjunction with a planned reconstruction of I-15 through North Salt Lake City, is essential to meet travel demand in 2020.

The Legacy Parkway will be a four-lane, limited-access, divided highway extending approximately 21 kilometers (13 miles) from Interstate 215 (I-215) at 2100 North in Salt Lake City, Utah, northward to Interstate 15 (I-15) and U.S. 89 near Farmington City, Utah. This location is within both Salt Lake County and Davis County. A multiple-use trail for pedestrians, bicyclists, and equestrians will parallel the highway.

The modification of a parallel facility, I-15, is being evaluated concurrently with the proposed Legacy Parkway. Reported on separate Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), I-15 North is proposed to be expanded to ten lanes between 600 North in Salt Lake City and 200 North in Kaysville, north of the current I-15 South reconstruction project. Eight of the ten lanes (four in each direction) on this portion of I-15 will be general usage, and two lanes (one in each direction) will be designated as continuous-access, high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes. All of the existing interchanges will be replaced with high-capacity, operationally efficient facilities.

Idaho

At this point, there do not seem to be any specific plans for high priority projects in Idaho.

Montana

The Montana section of CANAMEX would follow Interstate 15 for its entire length. Some proposed improvements include a bypass of Great Falls, revision of Great Falls interchanges, and a potential four-lane expressway from Great Falls south to Billings via U.S. 87. In the Great Falls Tribune (Montana) dated Sunday, February 11, 2001 appeared this article, "Plan would pave way for trade: CANAMEX would create a seamless highway trade corridor from Mexico to Canada," by Karen Ivanova. The idea is to make the 1,504-mile CANAMEX Corridor -- stretching from Edmonton, Alberta, to Mexico City -- a leading trade and tourism route in the new, technology-driven economy, including the segment within Montana.

Canada

Even north of the border, connections to the CANAMEX Corridor are being constructed. According to Jim Guthrie of Edmonton, the corridor leading north from the northern terminus of Interstate 15 is planned to be upgraded. The upgraded corridor follows several routes. From the south, they are: Route 4 North to Lethbridge, Route 3 west to Fort McLeod, Route 2 north to Edmonton, around the City of Edmonton to the west on a new ring road, Route 16 west, Route 43 north, Route 34 west, and Route 2 west into British Columbia. The CANAMEX Corridor would then find a direction connection to Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, British Columbia.

Planning upgrades by 2005 a four-lane, divided highway from west of Grande Prairie Alberta to Couts-Sweetgrass. The portion from Fort McLoed to Edmonton will gradually be converted to freeway, where it isn't now. Route 16 West will also be upgraded, though much of it is freeway already.

For additional information, check out North-South Trade Corridor, which includes plans for upgrades just north of Interstate 15. Also visit Alberta Infrastructure Plans.

Page Updated June 9, 2002.