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Our Opinion: On the right path

June 20, 2002

While some state and federal officials may not realize how much worth the Imperial Valley has beyond being a source of water for the coast, we are pleased to see the state does continue to see the need to upgrade and expand roads and highways in the area in light of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Just drive along Highway 111 and you can see construction of a four-lane highway that will replace the existing two-lane roadway. The highway is one of the main arteries through the Imperial Valley and its expansion is critical as more and more big rigs rumble through the Valley on their way to and from Mexico.

More than a $100 million has been set aside for the Highway 111 expansion and the funding is available for the three stages in which that project will be designed. Then there is the Brawley Bypass, a project to wrap Highway 111 north of Brawley and have it connect to Highway 86. There again is a project instrumental to the future of the Valley, the North County and Brawley in particular.

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The bypass project also will be built in three stages and will cost more than $100 million. All but $18 million of the third stage has been set aside. State Department of Transportation officials say when the time comes to start the third stage in 2005, the $18 million will be available.

We are sure people in Brawley would like to see the bypass done sooner than its 2007 scheduled completion, but we are glad to see the project is on track and the state had committed itself to the work. The time it will take to finish the project will give Brawley the time it needs to prepare for any changes that might occur.

The Highway 111 expansion and bypass are just two of the key projects related to NAFTA. Two others include the expansion of Highway 98 to a four-lane highway leading east from Calexico and the building of Highway 7 from the Calexico East Port of Entry to Interstate 8. Those two multimillion-dollar projects also are moving forward, although they too will take a number of years to complete.

If the state understands the Imperial Valley's importance in connection with NAFTA, we would hope the state would see why the Valley is so concerned about its water and is so angered by threats that have been made to force the Valley to fallow. The Valley is a key part of the state and can continue to play a key role if given the proper resources and consideration by state and federal officials.

We are not just a water source for the coast. We are much, much more important than that.

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