Thursday, June 9, 2011 | 9:05 p.m.
Beyond the Sun
While growth in the southern Las Vegas Valley has slowed considerably, transportation officials are still moving forward with plans to add new interchanges to Interstate 15 in areas that expect future growth.
The Nevada Department of Transportation held a public meeting Thursday afternoon on the proposed Cactus Interchange, which would provide a new access point to the freeway between St. Rose Parkway and Silverado Ranch Boulevard.
It would also provide the only east-west route across the freeway in the area, providing better access and road options for residents in Southern Highlands and nearby neighborhoods.
The Cactus Avenue project and the similar Starr Avenue interchange project planned even further in the future would help reduce traffic on the two existing interchanges, especially the Silverado Ranch interchange, which is already experiencing occasional congestion.
Senior Project Manager Ed Miranda said the department reassessed the project need as construction in the area has slowed considerably in the Great Recession.
Traffic projections are down as much as 25 percent for the area, Miranda said, but the data still project a need for the project.
“You may not see the need now, but as the slow growth continues, by 2030, you’ll see the need,” he said.
Currently, Silverado Ranch has 1,500 vehicles entering the freeway and 1,500 exiting the freeway per hour at peak traffic times, he said.
Planners forecast that number to shift to 1,800 leaving the freeway and 1,100 entering per hour at peak traffic times in 2030 — and that is assuming the Cactus interchanges opens, serving another 1,300 exiting and 1,100 entering cars.
Starr Avenue is expected to serve another 1,300 exiting and 1,200 entering cars per hour after it is built.
“This (project) is so needed,” Miranda said. “Silverado now is very congested...and it’s not going to get any better.”
The transportation department hopes to advertise the Cactus Avenue project next year and be done with construction by early 2014.
The Starr Avenue interchange is scheduled to be done a few years later.
The Cactus project will cost between $65 million and $85 million, Miranda said.
The new interchange will be similar in design to the Silverado Ranch Boulevard interchange, with Cactus Avenue a full six lanes between Las Vegas Boulevard and Dean Martin Drive.
In addition to the basic interchange, the project includes a major flood control element, because the interchange is in the middle of a natural wash.
Plans call for extensive landscaping and aesthetic elements for the interchange, with a strong emphasis on a cactus theme to match the road’s name.
Miranda jokingly said motorists won’t miss their exit because they will see the cactus decorations long before they see road signs with the street name.