Dust-free Wickenburg sidestepped for CANAMEX

By Linda Bentley | June 25, 2008

One county, two towns, different rules
MARICOPA COUNTY – The CANAMEX Trade Corridor was defined by Congress in the 1995 National Highway Systems Designation Act as a High Priority Corridor.

The Corridor begins in Nogales, Ariz., continuing through Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Montana to the Canadian Border.

The CANAMEX Corridor Project is a nonprofit organization housed in the state capital building at 1700 W. Washington Blvd.

According to their website, “The plan provides areas of collaboration by the states with the goals of stimulating investment and economic growth in the region and enhancing safety and efficiency within the corridor. A comprehensive and coordinated plan will ensure the efficient allocation of resources along the corridor necessary to maximize the economic potential for the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

“CANAMEX includes transportation, commerce and communications components. The transportation component calls for the development of a continuous four-lane roadway from Mexico through the U.S. CANAMEX states, into Canada.”

The idea behind the corridor is to create a seamless, borderless, integrated economy, as the organization’s website claims, “The term CANAMEX is far more than a line on a map or a specific highway, however. Recognition must be given to the fact that the area that would benefit from CANAMEX development extends well beyond the highway. People and products may enter or leave the CANAMEX at any point. Consequently, integrated development of the entire CANAMEX Corridor provides the extensive benefits to the region.”

As the lead state in the project, the Arizona Department of Transportation received $1 million in National Corridor Planning and Development (NCPD) funds to “develop a comprehensive plan of the CANAMEX Corridor including strategies for addressing deficits and needs along the Corridor.”

There’s not much public mention of CANAMEX, even though Governor Napolitano is the driving force to get the Arizona leg of the corridor underway.

In fact, the governor’s office helped draft the TIME (Transportation and Infrastructure Moving Arizona's Economy) initiative, seeking to raise $42 billion over 30 years through a 1 percent increase to the state’s sales tax.

Not a single utterance of CANAMEX anywhere, while there’s been plenty of talk about the need for state-wide transportation infrastructure.

Arizona is the lead state for CANAMEX, possibly because “integrating” with Mexico is not a popular concept, especially amongst the majority of Arizonans who have been demanding the border be secured with a good number demanding a stop to Mexican truckers having free reign in the United States. If Arizona can pull this leg of CANAMEX off in this climate, the rest of the corridor would seemingly be a breeze.

Meanwhile, as Cave Creek has been battling the heavy hand of MAG’s (Maricopa Association of Government) “Serious Area Particulate Plan for PM-10,” Sonoran News noticed Wickenburg, although in Maricopa County, is excluded from the designated PM-10 non-attainment Area A.

According to its description on MAG’s Website, Wickenburg is “a high desert town with 5,082 residents … just 60 miles northwest of Phoenix in the northern reaches of the great southwest’s Sonoran Desert … noted for its clean air, good country living, western hospitality and all-around high quality of life. Winters are generally cool and dry, which leads to an annual population increase of 2,500 ‘snow birds’ every autumn.”
Wickenburg, also renowned for its dude ranches and tourism, holds annual events that include Gold Rush Days, the Blue Grass Festival, the Desert Caballeros Ride and Fiesta Septiembre.

According to 2006 U.S. Census estimates, the town of Cave Creek has a population of about 4,951.

The town’s official Website describes Cave Creek as the “true” Arizona experience with eclectic shopping, art galleries and the unrivaled beauty of the Sonoran Desert, offering horseback riding, rodeos, country and western dancing, museums, parks and nature preserves, hiking and biking and old mining tours.

Cave Creek also touts its own annual Wild West Days and Fiesta Days celebrations.
So, what’s so different about the two equestrian communities that they’re treated with such disparity?

Why does Area A terminate before reaching Wickenburg?

Back in 2000, as MAG revised its 1999 particulate plan, ASU conducted a study, “Correlating Bioaerosol Load with PM-2.5 and PM-10 Concentrations,” citing, “Recent air analysis in the Phoenix metropolitan region has shown that particulate matter mass concentrations in urban areas are 3 to 7 times higher than nearby rural areas. This increase coincides with a dramatic increase in the number of reported incidents of Valley Fever …”

It stated dust storms, natural disasters, prolonged drought, and other natural environmental conditions can lead to increased incidences of airborne diseases, while human activities that disturb the soil, such as construction and traffic, “substantially increase particulate matter concentrations in urban areas.”

The study included a graph from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality depicting particulate matter concentrations in both rural and urban areas, as compared to the particulate dust health standard at a measurement of 50 ug/m3.

Rural particulate concen-trations at Organ Pipe National Monument measured in at 10 ug/m3 while North of Wickenburg measured 7 ug/m3.

Urban particulate concen-tration measurements included 27th Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road in Phoenix at 70 ug/m3, Higley and Williams Field roads in Mesa at about 65 ug/m3, 1475 E. Pecos Road in Chandler at around 64 ug/m3 and the ASU West campus at 47th Avenue and Thunderbird Road at about 30 ug/m3.

All this would seem to make a case to exclude Cave Creek, which isn’t being measured at all for particulates, from the non-attainment area.

Then there was the April 2001 MAG Resolution for the designation of the CANAMEX Corridor through the Maricopa Region, signed by then Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza, chairman of MAG Regional Council.

It stated MAG and the Arizona Department of Transportation recognized the need to analyze alternatives for a designated route through the Maricopa region for the CANAMEX Corridor and, accordingly, conducted a study to identify a corridor.

MAG resolved that the future designation of the Corridor in the Maricopa region be constrained to a location outside of the air quality non-attainment area for PM-10 and recommended the Wickenburg Road/Vulture Mine Road alignment, several miles west of Wickenburg, for designation as part of the CANAMEX Corridor.

CANAMEX Corridor studies also call for the widening of I-10 to five lanes in each direction.