Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2018

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Project to widen I-15 near downtown gets boost


Justin M. Bowen

Homes in the Glen Heather Estates neighborhood that border Interstate 15 are in danger of demolition as NDOT prepares to widen the freeway.

Click to enlarge photo

Sen. Harry Reid speaks to the press about Project Neon on Thursday, Oct. 22 at the Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation facility. Reid announced that Project Neon, which will dramatically change Interstate 15 in Las Vegas, gained federal approval to proceed this week.

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I-15/Sahara interchange

One of the biggest road projects in Nevada history passed a major milestone this week.

The Federal Highway Administration issued a Record of Decision on Thursday for Project Neon, which will widen Interstate 15 from Sahara Avenue to the Spaghetti Bowl and make major changes to the arterial streets in the area.

The Record of Decision document approves the project’s Environmental Impact Statement and allows the Nevada Department of Transportation to begin the final design and construction.

Officials expect to begin actual construction in two years, but engineers and others already are working on the project.

“Project Neon we’ve talked about for a long time,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who attended a news conference with state, federal and local transportation officials to announce the milestone. “Finally the environmental statement is done. That sounds easy to say, but that is really a project in and of itself.”

The initial planning for the project began with alternative A and got to alternative H before officials decided alternative G was the one to use.

“It was the best conclusion to a very long and comprehensive environmental process,” said Susan Klekar, the Nevada Division administrator for the Federal Highway Administration. “It has been quite a journey to get here.”

Officials said the first phase of the project alone would create about 20,000 jobs.

The project is broken up into five phases, the first of which is now being designed and is expected to be under construction from 2012 to 2015. The next four phases will be spread out over 20 years as funding becomes available, officials said.

The total project is expected to cost between $1.4 and $1.8 billion.

The first phase, which is the largest and will cost about $500 million, includes the widening of I-15 and the addition of a new ramp to the Spaghetti Bowl to connect the I-15 express lanes directly to the high-occupancy vehicle lanes on U.S. 95.

The result will be improved traffic flow throughout the valley, said Tracy Larkin-Thomason, the Nevada Department of Transportation assistant director of planning.

The project will improve one of the most congested and most dangerous stretches of freeway in the state, but it is expected to require bulldozing 345 residences and 445 commercial properties on 93 acres.

The project also includes major changes to Charleston Boulevard, Marin Luther King Boulevard and Grand Central Parkway, among other streets.

“Funding isn’t fully committed, but there’s a lot of attention being put to get it,” Larkin-Thomason said.

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