Phoenix and Las Vegas are the two biggest metropolitans in the United States not connected by an interstate corridor. The interstate corridor not only facilitates personal travel; it has infrastructure to move freight by road and rail, and infrastructure to move energy and goods to market. The Interstate 11 Corridor will be important to the growth and development of the Phoenix and Las Vegas metropolitan areas as the final piece of an ‘Intermountain West Corridor.’ This will link fuel resources from Canada to a new water port in Mexico, and a new land port in Arizona. The corridor is important for the metros, and the Intermountain West, to help it grow and be competitive with other regions of the U.S.
These corridors have been conceived of as engineered projects with low place sensitivity. Solutions have been expensive, inefficient, and damaging to their surroundings. Interstate corridors cut wide swaths through the country, damaging habitat and inducing sprawl – a fossil-fuel based pattern of urban design. What if we could think about the corridor as an anticipatory infrastructure, designed to be sensitive to: its ecological context, climate change, and new technologies?
This case study for the I-11 spans Las Vegas to Wickenburg, AZ, the northwest edge of the Phoenix sprawl. An ecological analysis of this area yielded two primary resources the I-11 could grow: renewable energy, and conservation tourism. People are aware (worldwide) of the nearby Grand Canyon National Park, but other world-class underdeveloped ecological resources are adjacent to the corridor.
These ecological resources have several endemic species of great importance in the Sonoran Desert bioregion. An expanded corridor could cause habitat fragmentation, and species loss - the corridor design must minimize wildlife disruption. A principal means to do this, is to shrink the corridor width. Corridors have right-of-ways for energy, rail, and automobiles. We shrink the corridor by recognizing driverless cars can occupy roads at a much higher density, research showing perhaps by as much as two times the capacity we consider maximum. We do not need to widen the road. New energy transmission lines can be placed underneath the road into a conduit, and unused road space can be transformed into rail, as the load condition for the road and rail are nearly identical.
Driverless car technology can allow passengers to engage surroundings. Freed from paying attention to the road, passengers can learn about renewable energy systems, and the ecosystems surrounding them. Roadside infrastructure, such as rest areas, can bring water to people and species, to efficiently augment resources in the drying West. These places can be designed to minimize wildlife disturbances in addition to maximizing opportunities for interface.
With the time to plan and design for the future of this corridor, we must think about infrastructure in an anticipatory way to marry new technologies to anticipated changes in climate to create an emergent and resilient future. This I-11 project is a vision to establish a platform for designers to participate in leadership of next generation infrastructure. Project team includes: Logan Ziegler, Kristina Fivecoat, Emy Carnate, Andres Diaz, Burim Kalaveshi and Amanda Gann.