UniSource Energy Services crews are assisting state transportation officials on a major highway project that will help increase international trade coming from Mexico through the Nogales border crossing.

The Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT’s) State Route 189 project aims to improve mobility and safety on a 3.75-mile stretch of the highway through upgrades that include raised ramps connecting the Mariposa Port of Entry with Interstate 19.

Since construction began in April 2020, UniSource electric and gas workers have coordinated with state, local and federal officials to ensure the safety and reliability of utility lines, said Roberto Guevara, Director of Gas and Electric & Operational Excellence for UniSource.

The upgrade of SR 189, known locally as Mariposa Road, will support economic development throughout the state and beyond with $26 billion of goods crossing the Nogales border annually. This contributes $195 million in salaries related to the trade, according to ADOT.

When completed, the highway will be better able to accommodate an anticipated increase in cross-border traffic. The number of vehicles passing through the port expected to nearly triple by 2040, to more than 30,600 each day.

“Our crews are working hard to help pave the way for this highway. We’re proud to contribute to such an important project that will help grow our economy and make our community safer,” said Nohemi Gradillas, UniSource Customer Service Planner, who has coordinated the Nogales project.

For major road and infrastructure projects, UniSource employees plan meticulously with partners to ensure that construction stays clear of our utility lines. In many cases, UniSource must relocate electric or gas lines, permanently or temporarily, to make space for projects.

Last year, gas crews had to move a portion of a natural gas distribution line away from the location where concrete columns were planned for the project. Electric crew members and contractors also relocated about a mile and a half of electric lines for the road expansion and overpass. Originally overhead, the lines were buried underground so that the road project could be built on top, Guevara said. Those lines provide critical service as the main feeds to Nogales High School, two hotels, a commercial plaza, a gas station and a fast food restaurant.

“It was very challenging, especially when many of us were working remotely. But we got it done and they did an amazing job,” Guevara said.

Later this year, crews are preparing to move two 90-foot, steel transmission poles, currently near an overpass. UniSource is coordinating with colleagues from sister company Tucson Electric Power for the complex project.

The road improvement project completion is expected this fall.

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