Wednesday, July 1, 2009 | 2:38 p.m.
Nevada transportation officials came one step closer to breaking ground on a massive construction project aimed at easing congestion and improving access and safety on the 1-15 south corridor today by announcing the selection of a contractor team to design and build the project.
Las Vegas Paving was selected out of four finalists to lead the I-15 South Design-Build project, which is an estimated expansion and renovation of I-15 between Blue Diamond Road and Tropicana Avenue that planners say could cost up to $270 million. The project calls for widening I-15 to four lanes in each direction, improving off-ramps and overpass bridges and adding one-way collector-distributor roadways to improve traffic flow on interchanges.
“Ultimately, what that means is you will be able to get to one point to the other and be happier when you get there,” Susan Martinovich, director of the Nevada Department of Transportation, said when announcing the selection.
Officials said Las Vegas Paving was selected because its proposal included all of the criteria for the project, as well as all of NDOT’s desired additional features, for a bid of $246.5 million. Organizers had not required that plans include all the additional features out of concern that it would cause the project to go over budget.
“[The proposal by] Las Vegas Paving gave us all of the base scope, all of the additives and about a dozen other items, all for the lowest price,” NDOT engineer Mary Martini said.
Construction on the I-15 South corridor will extend from Blue Diamond through the 215 Beltway exchange, and on to Tropicana Avenue. It will also tie in with current construction on and around I-15 North.
“Really, we are going to have every aspect of I-15 under construction, that’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing. That means that there’s economic growth. That means when we get done with the construction, we’ll have a product that will treat and make the system,” Martinovich said. “(We’ll) have better facilities to drive on and better utilization (and) just much better ways to get around.”
Officials said despite a high volume of construction, they expect to save time and money by utilizing a design-build process to complete the project. Traditionally, large-scale construction projects are completed in three phases: a design phase, a bidding phase and a construction phase. In a design-build process, the engineers and contractor work together to design and build the project simultaneously. This is NDOT’s second project to use this process, which is often implemented in vertical construction projects.
Supporters say the practice is efficient and cost-effective.
“The economical part of it is you can save money, because time is money,” said Martini, who noted that the estimated completion for the project is two years.
Martini also said the plan will allow the transportation department to continue to renovate the interstate to meet the state’s growing transportation needs.
“One of the things we wanted to make sure is that whatever gets built now has forward compatibility,” Martini said. “(So that) when we come along widening in the future, as little as possible is lost from what is being constructed now, and yet we have good operational flow in the meantime.”
Officials hailed the project as vital to improving the economic health and quality of life in Las Vegas and beyond.
“It helps bring lifeblood into our economy from Southern California, people and goods coming into Las Vegas,” said Martinovich. “(The project is a) great opportunity for commerce, great opportunity for jobs and just a great opportunity to bring people into our state.”
Assemblyman Joe Hogan (D- Clark County), who serves on the Transportation Committee, said this project, combined with the I-15 North construction, has the potential to drastically reduce congestion and improve traffic flow in Las Vegas.
“We have been growing so fast that we always seem to be on the edge of saturation for local traffic and this is an opportunity to hopefully get ahead of the number of lanes we needs, the number of vehicles we can handle smoothly,” he said.
Hogan also said the Legislature plans to work with NDOT officials, the contractor and the community to ensure the project creates jobs for minority and women workers.
“We think that there is room for a lot more women construction workers and the need to provide construction employment to our very fast growing minority population as well,” he said. “Any large contract like this has the potential to get a diversified workforce together.
“I think we have a very good chance to get a workforce that we’re very proud of and that can represent the overall workforce in the area.”
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter characterized the construction as an important boost to the tourism industry. He noted that about half of Las Vegas’ visitors come to the city by automobile.
“We need to be able to get them to Las Vegas and back, out and more importantly to give them a pleasant experience as they go around the valley to go to the the Strip or downtown or the outlying areas,” he said. “It’s a win-win because it impacts (the LVCVA) as we try to bring more business to Las Vegas, but also, for all of us who live in Las Vegas and Southern Nevada, it will improve our ability to move throughout the area.”
The selection must be approved by the state Transportation Board, and the contractor and the state must negotiate a conforming document with the winning team to solidify the plans. If an agreement cannot be met, the project bid will be offered to one of the three runner-up proposals: Granite Construction, Kiewitt Frehner or Skanska Flatiron.
Officials said they hope to proceed with the confirming design-build team selection by August. Construction on the corridor is expected to run from late 2009 to December 2011.