WATCH: Sen. Kelly Highlights Urgency of Widening I-10, Building I-11 During Senate Hearing
Yesterday, during a Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearing, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly questioned Shailen P. Bhatt, nominee for administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, about how funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, shaped by Kelly, can support the widening of I-10 and construction of I-11 to connect Phoenix and Las Vegas.
As a member of the Senate EPW Committee and a key negotiator of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Kelly helped establish the first of its kind National Infrastructure Project Assistance program which will fund major transportation projects like the expansion of the I-10 expansion between Phoenix and Tucson or the construction of I-11 to connect Phoenix and Las Vegas.
Read a transcript of Kelly’s remarks below. Watch his full remarks HERE.
Kelly: I wanted to start by and begin by discussing, you know, some of the important infrastructure projects that we have in Arizona. So Arizona’s different, just different, than most states. When the interstate highway system was designed in the fifties and sixties, Arizona’s infrastructure needs, they just look different.
Compared to other regions, our interstate highways are not designed to meet the needs of our growing state and the growing southwest region. Right now, portions of Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson, which are the two largest metropolitan areas in the state, they still just have two lanes with no access road and a single accident can cause traffic jams for hours. This happens almost every day.
And despite being two of the fastest growing cities in the country, Phoenix and Las Vegas still are not connected via an interstate highway. So that’s why I worked to create the new National Infrastructure Project Assistance Program, which we are calling the Mega Projects Program, to fund major transportation projects with national or regional economic mobility and safety benefits, or, in other words, projects like this I-10 expansion between Phoenix and Tucson, or the construction of a highway between Phoenix and Las Vegas or in Tucson, and all the way to Las Vegas, which would be called I-11.
The Arizona Department of Transportation and our regional partners are committed to getting these projects done. And I’m hopeful that the Federal Highway Administration can be a partner in these efforts. So, Mr. Bhatt, would you agree that Arizona and other fast-growing states have different roadway infrastructure needs than other states?
Mr. Bhatt: Thank you, Senator. Kelly and, actually, I heard that you bring that up in the March hearing as well. And Senator Hickenlooper talked about the gap. There was a 12-mile stretch between Colorado Springs and Denver that we worked to accelerate that delivery because to me, it’s not just a capacity issue, it’s a safety issue of a crash on a two-lane road. You have one lane taken by the crash, one lane for emergency vehicles, and you shut down the entire roadway. And so if confirmed, I would look forward to working with you to try to resolve these issues.
Sen. Kelly: And do you think this infrastructure law can help states like Arizona or Colorado fund long overdue interstate expansion projects?
Mr. Bhatt: Thank you, sir. I would say it would be my great hope that if that is what the people of Arizona wish to pursue, that we would be a good partner to help them deliver.