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Boulder City tries to pass the truck back to Arizona


Justin M. Bowen

Vehicles travel toward Henderson on U.S. 93 near Veterans Memorial Drive in Boulder City on Friday, Feb. 25, 2011.

Boulder City Traffic

Traffic leaves town heading toward Henderson on U.S. 93 near Veterans Memorial Drive in Boulder City on Friday, Feb. 25, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge Opens

The recently opened Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is framed by the Hoover Dam Wednesday, October 20, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Dedication of Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge

The Hoover Dam bypass bridge is officially completed. Federal and state dignitaries from Nevada and Arizona dedicated the 1,900-foot-long bridge Thursday, October 14, 2010.

Roger Tobler

Roger Tobler

Boulder City

Authorities banned truck traffic on Hoover Dam after the 9/11 attacks, and the federal government hustled to build the pricey and photogenic Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.

Trucks are able to take the bridge over the Colorado River as they head to Las Vegas, avoiding frustrating detours through Bullhead City, Ariz., and saving time and fuel costs.

But just four months after the bridge opened, Boulder City officials want it closed to trucks because their town can’t handle the traffic. The Nevada Transportation Department has announced it will widen U.S. 93 through Boulder City to address the traffic jams, but until that day comes, the city wants the trucks to return to Bullhead City, 80 miles south.

Bullhead City officials’ response: Uh-uh. No way, buddy. We took the traffic hit for years, and we’re done being nice.

Enter the federal government, where all heads are turning for a solution.

The Federal Highway Administration is stuck in the middle as Boulder City and Bullhead City — with the Nevada and Arizona transportation departments backing their respective residents — plead their cases over the heavy truck traffic on U.S. 93.

The plan was always to bring trucks across the bridge and through Boulder City when coming to Las Vegas. In preparation for the bridge’s opening, Arizona has spent almost $500 million widening parts of U.S. 93 to four lanes.

On Nevada’s side, though, little work was done. Transportation officials hoped to find state and federal money for the Boulder City bypass, which would take truck traffic around the city, but that project could be decades away because of Nevada’s tight finances.

U.S. 93 narrows to two lanes within Boulder City, and hundreds of trucks are pouring through the city each day since the bypass bridge opened in late October.

Last month, the Nevada Transportation Department announced plans to widen U.S. 93 to four lanes in Boulder City — a $10 million to $15 million project with a tentative completion date of Thanksgiving. Boulder City Mayor Roger Tobler has insisted truck traffic be rerouted through Bullhead City and Laughlin again until the widening of U.S. 93 is done.

Bullhead City Mayor Jack Hakim approached his state’s Transportation Department during a meeting two weeks ago, asking members to oppose re-establishing the detour through his city. Although trucks took that route after 9/11, Hakim said six accidents occurred involving commercial rigs, two of which closed Laughlin Bridge for nearly 12 hours. None was fatal.

Hakim showed pictures of those accidents to officials. He said he sympathizes with Boulder City’s problem, but that doesn’t mean he’s willing to risk the further traffic influx.

“Something should have been done … That bridge was built for that specific purpose, to handle the traffic — what was it for then?” he said. “You start bringing these trucks here again, it’s going to be a nightmare.”

Tobler has criticized the state and federal agencies for lack of preparation before the bridge opened. In September, the Boulder City Council approved a symbolic ordinance, urging federal transportation authorities to remove U.S. 93 from the official Canada-to-Mexico trucking route.

Tobler also said he doesn’t blame Hakim for standing up for his constituents, but the Boulder City mayor “can’t give him what he wants.”

“It doesn’t shut their city down like it does ours with this traffic. It comes right through the heart of our town,” Tobler said.

U.S. 93 is a major corridor for visitors flowing into the Las Vegas Valley from the east. According to the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, drivers from Arizona account for 9 percent of all guests and more than $1 billion in annual spending.

Traffic on U.S. 95 in Searchlight — the former route — was down 23 percent in January compared with January 2010, according to the Nevada Transportation Department. Volume on U.S. 93 between Boulder City and Hoover Dam increased 32 percent, more than 3,000 extra vehicles a day, this January compared with last.

Sen. Harry Reid sent a letter in October to Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez asking him to “find a solution to accommodate the needs of Boulder City as well as the freight industry.”

Doug Hecox, a spokesman for the highway administration, said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the U.S. 93 situation until his agency receives an application asking for the detour.

Jacob Snow, general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission, said he would forward the application to the department within 30 days.

Timothy Tait, assistant communications director for the Arizona Transportation Department, said the agency “shares concerns” with Bullhead City about rerouting traffic. He declined to comment further.

Nevada Transportation Director Susan Martinovich said she isn’t sure how successful its application would be. She’ll see her Arizona counterpart, John Halikowski, this week at a meeting in Washington and said the two would “look at what is the best approach” for both cities and states.

When Nevada announced its plan to widen U.S. 93 in Boulder City, officials said they would use only state funding to add four lanes where traffic bottlenecks near Buchanan Boulevard. Tobler has said that widening the road is only a temporary solution until funding can be found for the Boulder City bypass.

That plan has been incorporated into the Interstate 11 project, which would connect Las Vegas and Phoenix. Officials have said funding for I-11, likely in the billions of dollars, won’t be available for years.

Work on widening U.S. 93 could make traffic worse in Boulder City, making the detour for truck traffic even more important, Tobler said.

“We can’t have the trucks coming through while we’re doing this kind of construction,” he said.

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  1. Kingman probably doesn't mind the trucks. I haven't seen much of a back-up in Boulder City.

  2. Why not route trucks through Lake Mead?
    Why not have electronic signs at the Railroad pass and in Kingman showing what the wait time is in Boulder saying best route?
    NV didn't prepare so NV should face the consequences of their inaction. Here is hoping this makes national news so that they can all see how inept planning and spending in NV has caused so many issues in this state.

  3. This is nothing but a failure of planning by Nevada Politicians - during the Best Economy Ever.
    Now that things are much worse, they go hat in hand to the Federal Government for help in solving their incompetence. Tough Luck ! Driving from Phoenix to Las Vegas with Three Hour Backups at the bridge will convince drivers that going to Las Vegas is not worth the effort. Just as drivers from LA are getting disgusted with ten hour return trips. With rising airfares and incredible congestion coming in and out of LV it seems like the politicians have put a moat around the city and said visitors are not welcome.

  4. This is such an easy problem to resolve. Either build a bypass on a fast track basis or suffer the consequenses. End of discussion.

  5. Why not route them thru Industrial Rd it would take the trucks further away from the center of town

  6. I suspect that Senator Harry Reid wanted the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge rushed to completion during his reelection campaign, so he could look like its benefactor. It was too soon, as this article shows.

    The bypass around Boulder City should have been completed concurrently with the completion of the bridge. So far, the bypass isn't even funded. Therefore this is also another example of the absence of traffic engineering in Balkanized Clark County, Nevada.

    Note also that this bridge is part of the NAFTA Highway system being built to allow free running of Mexican trucks from the deep-water Chinese Cargo Ship Port of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan, Mexico, through Mexico City, Las Vegas, NV, Salt Lake City, UT, Canada, and on to Alaska.

    The intent of the NAFTA highway system is to facilitate the merger of the United States with Mexico and with Canada, under the semi-covertly evolving North American Union.

    This fits in with the illegal alien invasion of the United States, for the purpose of a demographically alloying of the US population with the Mexican population prior to
    the comfortable merger of the North American nations.

  7. When the bypass is built, then the locals (businesses) will be complaining about the loss to business (restaurants, fuel stations, etc.) along the current route.
    When highway 58 was completed a few years back to bypass Mojave, California, business at the truck stops, restaurants and motels in town dropped by 80% in some cases. Many closed. A similar thing happened along the old route through Barstow when the freeway was connected from Lenwood to I-15. Of course, on the good side, those freeways have cut 15-30 minutes off of the Bakersfield to L.V. run.
    I really do think the traffic planners in Nevada dropped the ball on this one. It should have been funded when the Feds were giving highway (pork) money out like crazy 5 or 6 years ago. There are currently 2 major projects (a new freeway and a 2 lane highway being widened to 4) being built in Bakersfield right now, paid for with those dollars. I know it's taxpayer pork, but why didn't Uncle Harry or Uncle Ensign work to include this project? Maybe all of the NV money in this bill went to the never ending I-15 reconstruction projects. This is the same pork bill that had the famous road to nowhere in Alaska on it.
    I'm not suggesting pork is good, far from it, that's part of why we have the deficit now, but if the money was offered up, they should have applied.

  8. This is the reason 57 percent of Boulder City votes did not choose Reid last November.... So do you think he's going to be any help now???

  9. Boulder City needs to realize its not the trucks.I have watched the highway for an hour on a busy sunday,and saw three trucks.Stop pointion the blame at trucks whan it is a problem that was created ny Boulder City.Before 9/11 happened I drove a truck across Hoover Dam four times a week,and never had a issue,no delay or anything.So,Boulder City this is a problem you have created somewhere,Not Bullhead City or TRUCKS!!!!