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October 27, 2021

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Freeway project: Officials expect smooth sailing after 3 years of traffic headaches

Project Neon

Jackie Valley

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signs a concrete culvert that will be incorporated into Project Neon, the massive roadway construction project that will reshape traffic flow between Sahara Avenue and the Spaghetti Bowl. Sandoval attended the groundbreaking event Thursday, April 7, 2016, at Symphony Park.

Las Vegas drivers, brace yourselves for extra traffic snarls the next few years.

Project Neon, the nearly $1 billion construction project that will reshape traffic flow around the Spaghetti Bowl, kicked off this morning.

State dignitaries, including Gov. Brian Sandoval and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, and entertainer Wayne Newton, gathered in Symphony Park to herald the start of the project that will widen 3.7 miles of Interstate 15.

It’s the costliest public infrastructure project in Nevada’s history — eclipsing even the Hoover Dam, which, in today’s market, would have cost roughly $850 million, Sandoval said. Project Neon is expected to be complete in summer 2019, generating 4,000 direct and indirect jobs along the way.

“We need this,” Sandoval said. “It is time that we stop just trying to catch up. We’re always reacting. It’s time for us to build big for our future. This groundbreaking is a significant step in that direction.”

About 300,000 vehicles a day travel the soon-to-be revamped stretch of Interstate 15 — from Sahara Avenue to the Spaghetti Bowl — that’s become a headache for tourists and locals alike. It’s the site of about three car crashes a day.

Population projections further underscore the need for improved traffic design, officials said. The state demographer predicts Nevada’s population will reach 3 million by 2019. And nearly two decades from now, the traffic in that section likely will double.

The good news: The completed project should reduce traffic delays by 28 percent, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation.

The project’s general contractor, Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., has a $559.4 million design-build contract with the state. The agreement includes up to $20 million in early completion incentives, as well as hefty potential late penalties. The lead designer is Atkins North America Inc.

A design-build approach should hasten the project’s completion and save $80 million, officials said.

Some of the improvements include:

• A high-occupancy-vehicle flyover bridge that will connect U.S. 95 to Interstate 15. The existing express lanes on Interstate 15 will become one general-purpose and one HOV lane.

• Reconstruction of the Charleston Boulevard exit and on-ramps to create a diamond-like interchange.

• Conversion of Martin Luther King Boulevard to a feeder-like roadway parallel to Interstate 15 for improved accessibility.

• Extension of Grand Central Parkway to Industrial Road, with a bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, to create a corridor linking downtown to the Las Vegas Strip.

Today’s celebratory event wasn’t without a dose of classic Las Vegas pomp and circumstance. Two showgirls flanked the makeshift stage, while the Coronado High School marching band provided tunes. Wayne Newton quipped that Sandoval would be future United States president — and the first from Nevada.

“You heard it here first,” the longtime Las Vegas entertainer said.

Later, the governor presented Newton with a custom Nevada license plate with the letters “MR LV” — an ode to the performer’s nickname of Mr. Las Vegas.

Officials urged motorists to be patient and drive safely as construction workers improve the roadways.

“We’ve got a little challenge coming for the next three years, but remember — one day it’s going to be simply magnificent,” the mayor said.

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