Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2005 | 9:50 a.m.
The recent monsoon rains will not delay the completion of the $82.2 million Interstate 215-U.S. 95 interchange in Henderson, Nevada highway officials and the chief contractor for the project said Monday.
They said they counted on the rains arriving and they had prepared for it, and the project on that portion of the beltway now is a month ahead of schedule.
"By mid-October, we expect substantial completion of the ramps, which means they generally will be open with some work left to be completed on them," state Transportation Department spokesman Bob McKenzie said.
Those ramps were not expected to be open until mid-November under the original plans for the second largest contract awarded in Nevada transportation department history.
The overall completion date, including cleanup and landscaping, is still expected to be next summer, as previously announced, McKenzie said.
"A lot of variables come into play, still it is pretty impressive to get a project like this completed on time, let alone be a month ahead at this point," McKenzie said, crediting Washington Group International Inc., the general contractor, for that accomplishment.
McKenzie said the company factored in the monsoonal delays before starting the work in September 2003.
Meanwhile, however, construction activity along the routes that lead to or through the "Henderson pretzel," as some call it, continues to frustrate motorists who attempt to navigate through bottlenecks to commute through the southeast portion of the valley.
The Transportation Department, on its Web site, cautions that traffic along U.S. 95, which has been reduced to two lanes in each direction during the day, may be reduced to one lane in each direction at night through Thursday.
Traffic on Gibson Road at Lake Mead Parkway also may be reduced to one lane in each direction at night, also through Thursday night, the transportation department said.
The project is being funded by Clark County, Henderson, the Regional Transportation Commission, the Federal Highway Administration and the state.
The interchange project also will include a diamond interchange at I-215 and Gibson Road and sound walls along residential areas.
Based on traffic increases and projections, the interchange was a necessity.
According to the state transportation department, that part of Lake Mead Parkway had an average of 64,000 a day in 2003. In 2000 the same area averaged 46,500 vehicles a day. Traffic count figures were not available for 2004.
In 2003 the combined traffic on U.S. 95 and Lake Mead totaled 133,750 cars per day with a projection of 222,800 vehicles a day by the year 2023, Transportation Department figures show.
Also, a few miles from the interchange, Clark County is poised to widen I-215 between Stephanie Street and Pecos Road from two lanes each way to three lanes in both directions to provide continuity throughout the Las Vegas Beltway.
"We are in the process of advertising for bids from potential contractors," said Bobby Shelton, spokesman for Clark County Public Works.
That process, he said, will take 60 to 90 days. The county expects to receive at least one to five bids and expects to spend about $5.5 million on the work.
"We are hoping to begin the widening stage by late December or January," Shelton said, adding that the project is expected to take six to eight months to complete, which would coincide, he said, with the completion of the interchange.
"This would make it a complete three-lane freeway from Decatur Boulevard to Lake Mead Parkway" with a 65-mph speed limit.
When initially built, the beltway between Pecos and Stephanie was made a two-lane, 55-mph highway as a "step down" from the 65-mph freeway to the 45-mph speed limit along what what was then just a county roadway between Stephanie and U.S. 95, Shelton said.
By the time it is finished in 2013, the 51-mile beltway is expected to have cost $1.7 billion, officials said.