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County marks beltway progress, says economy will bring delays

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

County Commissioner Larry Brown praises the efforts of county employees and contractors for a successful $58 million project widening the Las Vegas Beltway to a six-lane roadway between Charleston Boulevard and Summerlin Parkway during the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 10.

Updated Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010 | 3:24 p.m.

Beltway ribbon cutting

Distinguished guests kick off the opening of the Las Vegas Beltway between Charleston Boulevard and Summerlin Parkway during the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 10.  From left, Rep. Shelley Berkley, County Commissioner Larry Brown, Public Works Director Denis Cederburg and Councilman Stavros Anthony.
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Northern completion point

Clark County officials opened a key part of the Las Vegas Beltway on Wednesday, but work on upgrading the remainder of the beltway is on hold.

County Commissioner Larry Brown and Rep. Shelley Berkley cut a ribbon during a ceremony to open the upgraded road from Charleston Boulevard to Summerlin Parkway. That portion of the beltway is now a full six-lane freeway, with new interchanges at Far Hills Avenue and Summerlin Parkway.

Completion of the $58 million project means motorists can travel 33 miles on the beltway -- from Henderson to Lone Mountain Road -- without encountering a traffic signal.

The new 2.3-mile section of the road is key to alleviating traffic congestion throughout the region, Brown said.

“Now people on the western part of the valley -- which was one of the fastest growing areas with Summerlin West and Centennial Hills -- it gives them so many more options,” he said. “Now instead of clogging up the 95 and the Rainbow Curve or clogging up the airport connector going back that way, this really alleviates some of the pressure.”

Brown said the project, which has the highest elevation of any part of the beltway, included flood control aspects that will benefit other parts of the valley.

“The infrastructure up on this part of the valley protects tens of thousands of people downstream,” he said.

But finishing the rest of the 53-mile beltway may prove to be more of a challenge due to a difficult economy and one project that is mired in court action.

“This stretch went out to bid just as the recession came into play,” Brown said. “It’s going to be extremely difficult to identify the dollars this fiscal year and next fiscal year.”

But he also said it needs to be done.

“This beltway project has to continue to move forward,” he said. “It’s critically important the public sector keep pushing these public infrastructure projects onto the streets.”

But an upgrade to one of the remaining stretches of the beltway, from Tenaya Way to Decatur Boulevard, is on hold as the county appeals a court order to award the project to a contractor other than the one selected by the county commissioners.

Work on the remainder of the beltway is also on hold while the county deals with declining revenue, officials said.

County Public Works Director Denis Cederburg said the county planned to complete the beltway to its northern Interstate 15 connection by 2014.

“Now with the decline in revenue, we don’t know, we haven’t even started to project it,” Cederburg said. “We’ll wait a few months and see if the revenue stream picks up.”

The section from Tenaya Way to North Fifth Street is ready for construction, but the county pulled back on advertising the project to contractors when the economy began to spiral downward, Cederburg said.

The section from North Fifth Street to Range Road is still being designed, he said.

“We’ll design it and put it on a shelf until the revenue is there,” Cederburg said. “The plan is, as the money becomes available to build the rest of it.”

The bad economy has dried up funding for road projects, but it has also decreased growth in the area served by the road. However, Cederburg said, the rest of the beltway still needs to be upgraded.

“I think it’s important to have the continuous limited-access roadway,” Cederburg said. “Yes, we have a few years before it’s actually needed, but it’s better to build it now than later and play catch-up.”

Brown, who is also the chairman of the Regional Transportation Commission, said the beltway needs to be finished because it provides jobs and has a positive impact on the community.

“Every component, every element that’s completed on the beltway gives us more credibility as a county, as a regional RTC, as local government maximizing that taxpayer dollar and when people see the work that’s being done it builds more trust, it builds more confidence, it allows us to do more in the future,” he said.

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