Next Generation Infrastructure – Interstate 11 Supercorridor | UNLV Downtown Design Center & Ken McCown

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 between metropolitans; it has infrastructure to move passengers and 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; and be 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 inland port in Arizona.  Thus, 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.

Architect: Ken McCown 

Team Members: Amanda Gann, Andres Diaz, Kristina Fivecoast, Logan Ziegler, Burim Kalaveshi

Country: United States

Next Generation Infrastructure - Interstate 11 Supercorridor (1)
Next Generation Infrastructure – Interstate 11 Supercorridor (1)

Traditionally, in the United States, these corridors have been conceived of as engineered projects with low place sensitivity.  Solutions have been expensive, inefficient, and highly 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?

Next Generation Infrastructure - Interstate 11 Supercorridor (2)
Next Generation Infrastructure – Interstate 11 Supercorridor (2)

This case study for the I-11 corridor 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.

Next Generation Infrastructure - Interstate 11 Supercorridor (4)
Next Generation Infrastructure – Interstate 11 Supercorridor (4)

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.  Typical 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 currently consider maximum.  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.

Next Generation Infrastructure - Interstate 11 Supercorridor (5)
Next Generation Infrastructure – Interstate 11 Supercorridor (5)

Driverless car technology can allow passengers to easily engage their surroundings.  Freed from paying attention to the road, passengers can learn about renewable energy systems, and the ecosystems surrounding them on their trip.  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.

Next Generation Infrastructure - Interstate 11 Supercorridor (6)
Next Generation Infrastructure – Interstate 11 Supercorridor (6)

With the time to plan and design for the future, we must think about infrastructure in an anticipatory way to marry new technologies to anticipated changes in climate to create and emergent and resilient future.  This I-11 project is a vision to establish a platform for designers to lead.

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