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November 27, 2014

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Signs mark proposed freeway linking Las Vegas, Phoenix

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Julie Jacobson / AP

From left, Arizona Department of Transportation Director John Halikowski, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Steven Horsford, D-Nev., and Nevada Department of Transportation Director Rudy Malfabon unveil a sign marking the corridor for the future Interstate 11 between Phoenix and Las Vegas, Friday, March 21, 2014, at the Hoover Dam in Arizona. It was a symbolic effort meant to keep up momentum on the project, which is coming of age in an era of scarce highway funding.

Updated Friday, March 21, 2014 | 5:30 p.m.

A proposed interstate linking Las Vegas and Phoenix is still years and billions of dollars from reality, but the governors of Nevada and Arizona already have unveiled signs to mark their dream.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., met at the Hoover Dam on Friday to unveil signs that will be posted along the proposed Interstate 11. It was a symbolic effort meant to keep up momentum on the project, which is coming of age in an era of scarce highway funding.

"I firmly believe in the Interstate 11 project and know it will serve to help us compete as a region in the global economy," Brewer said in prepared remarks. "This magnificent sign that we are unveiling here today is proof of our confidence and long-term commitment to seeing this vision to fruition."

Nevada and Arizona are linked by the highway U.S. 93, but the corridor missed out on being in the original interstate network because the region's population exploded after the road-building blitz that began in the mid-1950s.

The states' transportation departments haven't officially estimated the cost of building an interstate-quality road through the 290-mile stretch, although informal projections range from $4 billion to $10 billion.

Beyond the link between Las Vegas and Phoenix, planners envision the road continuing south to Mexico and north to Canada. The freeway would direct more international trade through Nevada and Utah instead of into Texas or California, proponents say, and would provide an alternate north-south corridor that would relieve the heavily traveled Interstate 5 that runs through California, Oregon and Washington.

"When complete, I-11 will strengthen Southern Nevada's position as a leading location for logistics and distribution while dramatically improving the movement of goods between Mexico and Canada," said Jonas Peterson, chief operating officer at the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, an organization supporting the project.

The road faces significant obstacles. Federal highway funding has dwindled under a gas tax formula that hasn't changed in 20 years, and many residents of the two states are unaware of the proposed road.

Signs along the route are aimed at raising awareness of the project, according to Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder.

Interstate 11 remains in the planning phase. Transportation officials are in the middle of a $2.5 million study to explore potential routes for the road and estimate its cost.

"I-11 will not happen overnight. That is why we are demonstrating our strong support," Brewer said in a statement. "And I am proud to be the governor to drive it forward."

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