The Nevada Department of Transportation awarded a $65 million contract on Nov. 13 to widen and modernize a six-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 95 that runs through northwest Las Vegas.
In addition to widening a portion of the highway from four lanes to six, the project will also fund a new diverging diamond interchange, carpool access ramps, increased signage and lighting and intelligent transportation systems, according to an NDOT press release.
Tony Illia, NDOT spokesman, said the new technology will include nine closed caption traffic cameras, three digital messaging signs, two radar detection systems, six wrong-way driver systems and three emergency vehicle detector systems.
“They basically detect if there’s an ambulance or police car and change the signals for all the on-traffic so that first responders can get there more quickly,” Illia said. He noted that one of the reasons NDOT is making these renovations is to keep pace with the exponential growth of the Las Vegas area, which has flourished in the past few decades. The U.S. Census Bureau recorded that the population of Clark County, which houses Las Vegas, was over 2.1 million in 2016. According to the Clark County Department of Comprehensive Planning, that number will exceed 3 million by 2025.
Nevada's plans to widen and modernize a 6-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 95 in Las Vegas. (Nevada DOT)
In addition to residential growth, the area also receives a large number of visitors. Illia said that Las Vegas had 43 million visitors last year, 60% of whom drove to the area.
“There’s a huge amount of growth in that part of the city. There’s been rapid development with residential subdivisions and businesses moving out there, and there’s a lot more traffic than there had been,” Illia said. “This is one of the challenges that NDOT faces, especially working in a place like Las Vegas, which has seen record boom growth for the past three decades. We are simply racing to keep pace with the tremendous amount of growth that we see.”
Illia stated that NDOT and its contractor, Las Vegas Paving, will begin work on the 6-mile portion of U.S. 95 in January. He said most of the road work will occur at night, and NDOT will likely keep two lanes of traffic open at all times. The work will involve moving enough dirt to fill 7,000 swimming pools and enough concrete to pave 2,000 driveways, Illia said. The project is expected to be completed in fall 2019.
This project marks the penultimate phase of a series of additions that have been made to U.S. 95. Since 2008, NDOT has added flyovers, distributor roads, 8,200 feet of storm drainage, signs, lighting and two interchanges, including the U.S. 95/215 Beltway interchange, or “Centennial Bowl.”
U.S. 95, on which 52,000 vehicles travel a day, is an important corridor for freight movement, Illia said. The route links to Reno, which NDOT labeled the “Hub of the West” because it offers overnight delivery to nearly every major city on the West Coast. Illia said U.S. 95 is an important artery for connecting to major routes like Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 395.
“95 is really a key route that links Las Vegas with Reno,” Illia said. “Truck traffic coming from Southern California will often come up through here.”