Monday, Oct. 10, 2011 | 2:24 p.m.
As state transportation officials set out to buy land for the widening of Interstate 15 through the heart of the Las Vegas Valley, they're seeing a wide gap between what they're willing to pay and what property owners are willing to accept.
How big? $24 million.
The state Transportation Board has authorized the beginning of condemnation for Project Neon, which would improve the freeway from Desert Inn Road to the Spaghetti Bowl interchange.
So far the state has offered $5 million for the property needed for the project, while owners want $29 million.
Transportation Director Susan Martinovich said negotiations are still going on but the condemnation approval would allow the project to progress.
A lawsuit may be considered. Dennis Gallagher, attorney for the department, said "the potential exposure is greater than $29 million."
Board member Frank Hawkins of Las Vegas abstained on the approval. He has some business interests with Mark Fine who is believed to be one of the affected property owners along the alignment.
Martinovich said if the department did not use all the land, it would be sold.
In other action, the board approved a low bid contract for $8 million to pay Interstate Improvement of Minnesota for concrete and barrier work on I-15 from the California border to north of Sloan.
The department had estimated the cost of the project at $10.1 million. Board members asked whether in-state preference was given to a Nevada contractor.
Martinovich said only two bidders submitted bids, both of them from out of state. She said the in-state preference cannot be used when federal funds are being spent as is the case in this project.