After decades of promises for new highways and other infrastructure improvements, the Sonoran government is starting to lay out the cash. It may be nice for us driving humans, but this means less remote and wild country in Sonora.
Sonora's 2003-2009 governor Bours had more incentive to follow through than some. His father has made his fortune in concrete, which is commonly used in road projects in Sonora. Even large portions of Route 2 near Altar and Caborca have been constructed from concrete, which is odd considering how much more expensive it is than asphalt. Also the governor's brother, Ricardo Bours Castelo, formed the Sonora Strategic Projects Operator Impulsor, together with other investors in 2005, carried out the construction and related tourism projects of the huge coastal highway project.
The road between Saric, in the upper Rio Altar valley, and Sasabe, is being improved and paved. The worst part of the dirt road just above Saric is completed as well as a large stretch south from Sasabe. It appears from the way the intersection to Altar has been constructed that people are being encouraged to use this route instead of the infamous Altar/Sasabe "highway". At one point this very heavily used road was fenced off entirely from access, which of course did not last long.
This of course brings up the question -- why wasn't this stretch paved instead? It is much more heavily used than the Saric route, is much shorter, and is much flatter and easier to pave. Local politics are likely at play between landowner, drug and migrant smugglers, and politicians. There is still a quasi-legal toll on the Altar/Sasabe highway just North of Altar.
Pockets of paving work are happening in the Rio Santa Cruz watershed to the southeast of Nogales. I expect the idea is to connect Route 15 by Nogales with Route 2 west of Cananea.
As of 2011 there is also heavy construction on the road to Bacadéhuachi and Nácori Chico. There is now a good paved highway to Bacadéhuachi with ongoing work on the next leg to Nácori. Locals say the plan is to pave the road all the way to Mesa Tres Rios high in the Sierra Madre, but doubt it will ever be completed.