Friday, Oct. 4, 2002 | 9:26 a.m.
Tanks, jet planes and dozens of PT Cruisers helped christen a new $37.8 million portion of the Las Vegas Beltway on Thursday.
The approximately eight-mile stretch from Interstate 15 to Decatur Boulevard completes the beltway link from U.S. 95 to I-15 through North Las Vegas. Officials say the connection should ease traffic on nearby roads and spur development in the surrounding desert.
"In five years this will look totally different. It'll probably look like Green Valley," Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury said.
"It's going to be a lot easier to get from the west to the north," said Gigi Burroughs, 25, of Henderson. "And there will be better access to the (Las Vegas Motor) Speedway."
Burroughs was one of about 250 people at the opening ceremony held at the intersection of the beltway and Losee Road.
The opening ceremonies featured a flyover by three military jets, and used two tanks to tear red, white and blue ribbons that blocked the road.
North Las Vegas Mayor Michael Montandon and Clark County Commissioner Chip Maxfield each sat in a 63-ton M1A1 tank and steered the tank cannons away from each other, tearing the ribbons attached to the end of the barrels. About 45 PT Cruisers then motored past the tanks and headed west down the new stretch of beltway.
One of the first to ride down the new piece of the beltway, Las Vegas PT Cruiser Club member Steve Haberman, said the road felt great.
"Eventually it will take a lot of the truck traffic away from downtown. Anything they can do to relieve some of the traffic is great," said Haberman, 48, of North Las Vegas.
With the opening of this section of the beltway, 46 1/2 miles of the beltway's planned 53-mile length are open.
The last portion, 6 1/2 miles from El Capitan Way curving around to Cheyenne Avenue in northwestern Las Vegas, is scheduled to be completed by the end of next year.
Clark County Public Works spokesman Bobby Shelton has said that once the initial layout of the beltway is completed, the county will focus on upgrading the road to a freeway, replacing intersections with interchanges.
Under a proposal unveiled last month, that transformation could be completed by 2012, 13 years ahead of schedule.
That schedule depends on a $2.7 billion tax initiative for road building and other transportation needs that will come before voters next month.
The initiative, which will appear as Question 10 on the ballot, could be paired with federal money to cover the $840 million cost of building the full freeway. The only part of the road now up to federal interstate highway standards is a 10-mile stretch from Gibson Road in Henderson to Decatur Boulevard in southwestern Las Vegas.