Las Vegas Sun

April 19, 2019

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String of crashes on new stretch of Interstate 11 spurs concern

I-11 Grand Opening

Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

Traffic travels north on Interstate 11 after the grand opening of a new section of the highway Thursday, August 9, 2018, in Boulder City. The section, also referred to as the Boulder City Bypass, marks the official start of the I-11 project between Las Vegas and Phoenix.

There have been three crashes in about one month on the newly opened Interstate 11, resulting in four deaths and causing concern with transportation officials. 

Representing the first new portion of highway added in the United States in 25 years, I-11 is a 15-mile stretch linking motorists between the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge near the Hoover Dam and Henderson, bypassing Boulder City.  

The celebration of the newly opened road on Aug. 9 was short-lived.

On Aug. 14, a two-vehicle crash left two men dead. On Aug. 28, a two-vehicle crash left two dead and three injured. On Sept. 6, a four-vehicle crash, including two semi-trucks, resulted in three injuries.

Nevada Department of Transportation officials insist the road is safe but is being closely watched after the wrecks.

“This is a federally designated interstate with very specific design criteria for materials, construction, access and signage, among other things,” said Tony Illia, an NDOT spokesperson. “However, the department will continue monitoring live traffic over the new interstate, making future operational adjustments as necessary, ensuring motorists remain safe and connected.”

Although the new road can cause motorists some confusion as they acclimate to the new surroundings, Illia said the crashes were caused by actions taken by the drivers, and not the road itself.

“Every crash fatality is tragedy. The Nevada Department of Transportation places a high priority on public safety and welfare,” he said. “It’s our understanding, based upon preliminary information, that those crashes were due to driver behavior. Sadly, crashes are part of driving.”

NDOT also noted there is often a lag time for technology of third-party navigation apps to catch up with the latest road conditions. The department cautions people not to rely too heavily on navigation applications, as all of them aren’t always accurate.

Following the crashes, NDOT teamed with the Boulder City and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada to create supplementary signage to more clearly designate the routes to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, in addition to Boulder City and Kingman, Ariz.

“Sustained live traffic over the next six months will give us a clearer idea of what — if any — changes or amendments need to be undertaken along the new interstate,” Illia said.

Accidents aren’t limited to the I-11, Illia said.

“Motorist fatalities along the new I-11 have captured the public spotlight, yet there were quadruple as many fatal crashes during the past month along established Las Vegas Valley freeways like the 215 Beltway, U.S. 95 and Interstate 15, which are well signed and clearly lit,” he said.