Las Vegas Sun

July 4, 2015

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Project to widen I-15 in Las Vegas falls behind schedule

Image

Justin M. Bowen

Project Neon will widen Interstate 15 between the Spaghetti Bowl and Sahara Avenue and will add a new ramp to connect the U.S. 95 HOV lanes with the I-15 express lanes.

Click to enlarge photo

Construction on the giant Project Neon in Las Vegas hasn’t started yet, but it’s already behind schedule.

Initial costs are higher than expected for the project, which will widen Interstate 15 from Sahara Avenue to the Spaghetti Bowl and make major changes to the arterial streets in the area.

Cole Mortensen, senior project manager, briefed the state Transportation Board on Monday on the project progressing to the point of design and construction in 2015.

Board member Tom Fransway said, “It looks we are two months behind schedule” but added it was important “we do it right.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval, chairman of the board, said, “We have to get this right rather than push it through rapidly.” After the meeting, he said the two-month delay might actually save taxpayers money.

The project is estimated to cost $1.3 billion to $1.8 billion.

The department has spent $64 million in acquiring 24 properties, six of which are in litigation.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto said the legal costs would add to the acquisition price of the six parcels.

And it is spending $20 million to locate utility lines along the route.

In other business, the board put off a vote on increasing the current contract to buy fuel for its two airplanes from $230,000 to $870,000 to cover the costs through next fiscal year.

Board members were skeptical of the increase because the state pilots have retired and both craft are undergoing repairs.

Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki said, “I don’t see how the fuel costs increased that much.”

He noted the planes haven’t been flying because the department is still going through the process of screening possible replacement pilots.

Sandoval said he was confused about the escalation of fuel costs when the planes are grounded. The board asked for more information to be presented in May.

In a separate matter, NDOT Director Rudy Malfabon told the board the agency has taken a neutral position on a bill in the Legislature to raise the fuel tax by 2 cents a gallon.

Sandoval, who said in his message to the Legislature that he opposes any new taxes, declined to say where he stands on the gasoline tax increase.

He said he is evaluating the bill and added, “I don’t know if that will be enabling legislation or if that is something that will be approved by the Legislature.

“I am not going to comment on a piece of legislation that may be in a very different form now as when it reaches my desk. Until that bill is voted on by the committees and the entire Legislature and I know exactly what form it is, then I will take a position on it.”

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