The Nevada Department of Transportation will use recently issued federal funds to expand an interchange near Las Vegas to help bolster freight transportation.
NDOT was granted more than $21.6 million in Federal Highway Administration redistribution funding for fiscal year 2017.
The FHWA redistribution is a yearly process whereby the agency gives states a portion of money for which they can charge such expenses as road work projects.
NDOT spokeswoman Meg Ragonese said this year’s additional funding will improve the Garnet Interchange in southern Nevada to “enhance freight mobility and connectivity.”
The interchange, located on Interstate 15 near the northeast limit of the Las Vegas Valley, channels freight traffic from Southern California to Salt Lake City. According to the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, more than 9,000 trucks traverse the portion of I-15 that runs through the city every day.
“To accommodate an ever-growing state, we continue to add to our existing 5,300 miles of freeway infrastructure while proactively preserving existing roadways, some of which are the sole connections between Nevada communities,” Ragonese said. “This additional funding will augment existing funding to help us build and preserve roadways to keep Nevada safe and connected.”
The Garnet Interchange links I-15 and U.S. Route 93, a north-south route that runs from Wickenburg, Ariz., to British Columbia.
The project will increase capacity of U.S. 93 from two lanes to four lanes, as well as modify roads surrounding the interchange, including North Las Vegas Boulevard, Apex Great Basin Way, Grand Valley Parkway and Apex Power Parkway, according to NDOT.
“That is an area where it would be good to widen some of those lanes because I-15 is an essential corridor for Las Vegas. I-15’s a big deal for us. It’s kind of the artery for southern Nevada,” said Paul Enos, CEO of the Nevada Trucking Association. “For freight and people, getting all those tourists from Southern California into Las Vegas, it’s an essential road. It’s also an essential road for freight.”
The project will ultimately include a frontage road to provide local access to the Apex Industrial Park, according to NDOT. The Apex Industrial Park is a 2,000-acre site offering lots for businesses to establish plants and distribution centers. The park’s website touts the space as a “power transmission mecca” and says it has the potential to become one of the predominant industrial developments in the western United States.
Although NDOT emphasized the importance of Apex in its project plan, the industrial park has had a halting start. Faraday Future, a California-based electric car developer, canceled plans to build a $1 billion factory on the Apex site this past summer after its Chinese financier withdrew.
According to Enos, no other big companies currently populate Apex.
“Unfortunately, that thing turned out to be a huge flop. Everybody’s still hoping it’s going to turn into something successful, but the big company that was supposed to go there is gone,” Enos said. “One of the big justifications for spending money on this was for Faraday. They’re hopeful that something can happen there.”
This year, every state and the District of Columbia received a portion of FHWA’s $3 billion redistribution bundle. Last year, Nevada received $20 million through the redistribution process. FHWA spokesman Doug Hecox described the process as an attempt to make sure states have the opportunity to use the funds they need and distribute more funds to those who need additional support.
According to FHWA, there are seven different categories under which states can apportion their funds: the National Highway Performance Program, the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, the Highway Safety Improvement Program, the Railway-Highway Crossings Program, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement, Metropolitan Planning and the National Highway Freight Program.
States have until Sept. 30 to obligate their portions of the funding.
“No two states are alike. They just have different needs,” Hecox said. “Congress tries to make sure every state gets the fair amount.”