Updated 6:11 p.m. | Harry Reid's bid to push a new highway through Nevada before he faces the voters next year has a powerful Republican ally — James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma. The minority leader's re-election fight is sure to be one of the most contentious of 2016, but under the Dome, the push for an extended Interstate 11 from southern Arizona to Interstate 80 in the northern part of the Silver State is a bipartisan affair.
The junior senator from Nevada, Republican Dean Heller of Nevada, sponsored the legislation and wrote a letter backing it in May 2014.
In addition to Reid, the highway is also backed by Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake, both of Arizona — as well as Inhofe, the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. McCain is also up for re-election next year.
The key to I-11 is it would provide an interstate link between Phoenix and Las Vegas — a part of the 2012 highway bill — but the new proposal touted by Reid Tuesday would go much further.
“A few years back I was able to insert language in a transportation bill that established this corridor between Phoenix and Las Vegas and it makes sense that we would continue this interstate to Reno," Reid said in a statement. "Connecting three of the largest cities in the Southwest will create good-paying jobs, increase commerce, and significantly boost tourism to our state. I’m happy to work with Senator Heller and our Arizona colleagues to make this happen."
Reid has long touted his ability to deliver for Nevada to beat back challengers, including Sharron Angle in 2010.
Inhofe lauded the efforts of the four senators. He has made the drafting of a new highway bill — the most likely vehicle for authorizing an extended interstate — a top priority of his committee this year.
"I support the efforts of these Senators and their recognition that the interstate is not finished. I agree, the country is still very much in need of major capacity expansion of essential freight corridors. I appreciate the recognition from [the senators] that a fully funded, fiscally responsible, long term bill is the only way Arizona and Nevada will be able to plan and fund new construction of Interstate 11," Inhofe said.
"Upon completion, Interstate 11 would connect the only major cities with populations of over a million people who are not connected by an interstate," he said. "I look forward to making this a reality for my colleagues and for our country, as we will all benefit from reduced travel times and lower transportation costs."
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