Published Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 | 2:18 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 | 5:59 p.m.
After two years of orange cones, detours and road closures, motorists traveling on Interstate 15 near the Las Vegas Beltway interchange will finally be able to drive easy with the completion of the $246 million I-15 South Design-Build Project.
Local leaders, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, gathered Wednesday morning in a parking lot at Town Square to celebrate the completion of the project, which they say will help reduce congestion, improve safety and make accessing the Las Vegas Strip easier for out-of-town visitors.
“We can all expect a more streamlined and safer route on I-15 from Tropicana Avenue to Silverado Ranch, with merging traffic now separated from mainline traffic,” Sandoval said. “There is now faster, easier access to the Las Vegas Strip and McCarran Airport. ... This project is a vital component to ensuring safe, fluid and accessible driving in the corridor that is the economic lifeblood of the Las Vegas Valley.”
The I-15 South Design-Build Project, which broke ground in early 2010, affected an area stretching from Silverado Ranch Boulevard to Tropicana Avenue.
Construction crews added new access roads, widened ramp lanes and built new overpasses to help with traffic flow on and around the highway. Most of the funds for the project came from diverted room tax revenue, with about $30 million combined coming from Clark County and the state. Las Vegas Paving was the project’s contractor.
“This project does a lot to enhance safety. A lot of bottlenecks were eliminated,” said Susan Martinovich, Nevada Department of Transportation director. “When we can enhance safety, enhance accessibility, enhance mobility and ensure the flow of people who live here, people who visit our state – that’s good for Nevada.”
Major changes included in the construction include improvements to the I-15 and Las Vegas Beltway interchange, new bridges at Warm Springs Road and Sunset Road, and a new flyover connecting eastbound Blue Diamond Road with northbound I-15. A number of sculptures and landscaping elements were also part in the project.
About 7.5 million visitors travel each year into Las Vegas using I-15, accounting for an economic impact of about $10 billion according, to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
The I-15 South project provides the capacity to keep up with growing visitor numbers well into the future, Martinovich said.
“Even with the economic downturn, we’re still a rapidly growing state. We’re looking to be proactive instead of reactive,” she said.
The I-15 South project is the second NDOT project to use a design-build construction model in which the design phase and building phase overlap, allowing crews to begin work before the entire project is designed, ultimately saving six months to a year of construction time, said Martinovich.
The first NDOT project to use the design-build model was another I-15 expansion between the Spaghetti Bowl and Craig Road, which was completed in December 2009.