In a Nov. 28 letter to Elaine Chao, Secretary to the Department of Transportation, Congressman Ruben Kihuen discusses Interstate 11 and the economic boost the route could give communities.

Congressman Kihuen writes, “Interstate 11 has the potential to be an economic boom to Arizona and Nevada, bridging two of the last major metropolitan areas without a direct route between them. I fully support current efforts to complete I-11 between Phoenix and Las Vegas and urge you to continue to prioritize the project going forward. In this spirit, as the Department begins even the most preliminary stages of planning for I-11 north of Las Vegas, I urge you to consider the positive economic effect the highway could bring to rural communities along the route.”

Local Hawthorne residents, Mark Nixon and David Ellis, have gone to bat for Mineral County in an effort to get the large I-11 corridor to this area.

In a presentation to Nevada Assembly and Legislature, the pair brought maps, testimonies, letters of support and heart to make sure Mineral County has a voice in the decision as to where the new transportation corridor will be placed.

“The existing primary corridors traversing Nevada I-15 and I-80 provide only east west access and are not functionally connected Hawthorne is ideally located with existing railroad and the capacity for multimodal transfer of freight as specified in the Nevada Freight Transportation Plan. Paralleling the existing US 95 route there exists a dedicated rail bed from Hawthorne to Tonopah,” the presentation presented by Nixon and Ellis states.

Kihuen reflects those thoughts in his letter to Chao. “There are a number of cities and towns in the western portion of my district, including Hawthorne and Mineral County as a whole, which would benefit tremendously from the boost in economic development that having I-11 routed through them would bring. Economic and demographic changes have left these communities searching for fresh economic development opportunities, and I-11 could be a large piece of the puzzle in ensuring the continued viability of these communities.”

Along with I-11, the Hawthorne Army Depot could also benefit from the building of this major transportation route since the implementation of the U.S. Army’s Armament Retooling and Manufacturing Support program established in the winter of 2010. The ARMS project, as it is called, allows companies of all sizes to rent commercial space while provided a wealth of tools and resources.

“Supporting for routing I-11 through these communities is broad based, nonpartisan, and locally focused. Earlier this year, the Nevada state legislature unanimously passed a resolution expressing their opposition to any proposed route in which I-11 does not pass through Mineral County. Such broad based support shows that Nevadans from all corners of the state believe in the positive effect this development could have in western Nevada,” Kihuen’s letter continued.

In a letter from Financial Horizons Credit Union that was presented to the legislature, President Barbara S. Reuter explains what will happen if I-11 doesn’t come through Mineral County. “Mineral County is one of the most economically challenged areas in the State of Nevada, but with the chance of this project, we still have hope for future development. Otherwise, I see no hope of future growth for Mineral County. This would be devastation for the residents who have invested their lives, purchased homes and businesses and continue to work toward a stronger economy within our community.”

“Again, though I know final decision regarding I-11’s exact path north of Las Vegas may be years in the future, I urge you to consider the positive economic impact I-11 could have in the western counties in my district,” Kihuen concluded to Secretary Chao.

In her letter of support, Reuter touches on the feeling of many residents in this county. “…I am proud to be a citizen of Hawthorne. While we are continually challenged with the ability to grow our community and keep it relevant, this is a wonderful place to live. I hope we can preserve the chance of future growth by working together as a unified community and keeping Highway I-11 in Mineral County.”

It is unknown how long it will take to make a decision on the outcome of the I-11 corridor.