Steve Marcus / FILE
Monday, Jan. 5, 2009 | 2 a.m.
The first shovel will be driven into the ground this week for improvements to U.S. 93 between Hoover Dam and sleepy Boulder City.
It’s a little project: some street widening and a few medians. Folks in Boulder City wanted more, namely a nearly $500 million bypass that would keep traffic between Las Vegas and Arizona from coming through town.
But the long-sought highway around Boulder City is still fantasy. And that worries Boulder City residents who are bracing for 2011, when a new bridge across the Colorado River opens just below Hoover Dam.
With its opening, truck traffic — which has been banned from U.S. 93 since the 9/11 attacks — will again be able to take the highway, which travels through Boulder City.
Instead of the bypass, all that the city is getting is small improvements — extra acceleration lanes and medians.
“All we are addressing is safety issues,” Boulder City Mayor Roger Tobler said. “That’s all we could get from (the state Transportation Department).”
Some have given up hope for a bypass.
After all, the state is in its worst fiscal crisis in decades, including being $4 billion short in funding needed to upgrade and improve its highways. When money loosens up, it would most likely go to address traffic gridlock in the Las Vegas Valley, not for a bypass around Boulder City.
Still, Tobler and others in the city aren’t giving up. They say the 13-mile Boulder City bypass will eventually become an essential part of the trade route connecting Las Vegas and Phoenix.
The bypass should be promoted as beneficial to business and industry, Councilman Travis Chandler said. “It would save time for the trucks headed from Phoenix to Las Vegas.”
For now Boulder City is getting acceleration lanes at three intersections — Lakeview, Ville and Lake Mountain drives — which essentially widens a 1 1/2 mile stretch of the road.
Raised medians will improve safety by preventing motorists from turning onto side streets.
The work is expected to be completed by the end of March.
“These measures make it easier to get in and out of town,” Chandler said. “But the real answer is a bypass.”
Councilwoman Linda Strickland was less certain the improvements would help.
“I think whether it helps enough can only be determined when the traffic starts,” she said. “Time will tell.”
Strickland has been criticized by some in the small city for saying the bypass is never going to happen.
The city does have support for the bypass in Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, and the city secured $33 million in federal money earmarked for the project under the congressman she defeated, Jon Porter, a former Boulder City mayor.
Assemblyman Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, has requested a bill draft that would allow a private entity to construct and operate a toll-road bypass from Railroad Pass to the Hoover Dam. However, a bill that would have allowed toll road experimentation in the state was killed in 2007 and the state has historically been against tolls.
“To give up is not the right way to go,” Tobler said. “If we don’t have the money now, we have to find some other revenue sources, and tolling is one of them. I don’t know where else they can turn.”
In the meantime, the Boulder City Police Department is training officers to handle truck inspections and other traffic safety issues that are expected when the bridge opens.