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July 31, 2019 12:30 PM, EDT

One Year Out: Nevada’s I-11 Facilitates Through Traffic, Boosts Local Business

I-11 Nevada Lake Mead Overlook I-11 at the Lake Mead Overlook. (Nevada Department of Transportation)

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One year after its completion, Nevada’s Interstate 11 has become a popular bypass for freight haulers and motorists alike.

The interstate route, built by the Nevada Department of Transportation in partnership with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, is a 15-mile stretch that wraps around the southern perimeter of Boulder City — about 25 miles southeast of Las Vegas and home to the Hoover Dam.

The purpose of I-11 is to divert traffic away from U.S. Route 93, the small conduit that weaves through downtown Boulder City. Before the new interstate, U.S. 93 served as the primary link for traffic moving between Las Vegas and Phoenix, the two biggest cities in the country that are not linked by an interstate. With only three stoplights in the city, U.S. 93 frequently became clogged with weekend travelers and truckers.

Lake Mead Overlook under construction

The Lake Mead Overlook at I-11 under construction in spring 2018. (Eleanor Lamb/Transport Topics)

Interstate 11, which opened Aug. 9, 2018, forms a half-loop that begins at I-515 and reconnects with U.S. 93 right before the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge that spans the Hoover Dam. It dodges Boulder City entirely.

Traffic counts along the new stretch of I-11 have been averaging 20,000 vehicles daily; 18% of that is truck traffic, according to NDOT spokesman Tony Illia.

David Brower, vice president of risk management at Las Vegas-based trucking company Truline Corp., said I-11 has reduced travel time for drivers making the 300-mile trip between Las Vegas and Phoenix by 30 minutes.

“The Interstate 11 section is pretty impressive,” Brower said. “It’s a nice stretch of road. [Drivers] say they like it and it goes smooth.”

The change has also yielded a resurgence for the businesses of Boulder City, which was a relief for Jill Lagan, CEO of the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce. She said the eased traffic conditions on U.S. 93 have attracted more visitors from Las Vegas and nearby Henderson. Some 16,000 people live in Boulder City.

Before I-11 was completed, Lagan acknowledged the route could dispel the very traffic the business community tried to attract. She said many store owners were wary that a drop in passing vehicles could sink their businesses. This was true for Alpaca Imports, a Peruvian sweaters and rug retailer located on U.S. 93, Lagan said, adding the businessman relocated his store to an outlet mall two days after I-11 opened.

Illia confirmed that I-11 has caused traffic on U.S. 93 in Boulder City to drop more than 76% from an average of 22,400 vehicles daily to 5,300 vehicles daily.

Jill Quatrale

Jill Quatrale serves customer Sheryl Martens at Chilly Jilly'z on U.S. 93. (Eleanor Lamb/Transport Topics) 

Other than Alpaca Imports and branches of GNC and Burger King that announced they were shuttering before I-11 opened, Boulder City’s business makeup has remained the same.

Lagan said nearby residents seem to have rediscovered Boulder City as a day trip destination. The building that housed Alpaca Imports now contains a dinosaur-themed park.

Even before I-11 was finished, local business owner Jill Quatrale was confident that the route would encourage more visitors to Boulder City. Quatrale owns and operates Chilly Jilly’z, a restaurant on U.S. 93 that sells homemade sandwiches and smoothies. She said her business has seen an increase in sales because of people who come to Boulder City to eat, shop, visit the Hoover Dam and play in Lake Mead, rather than just drive through it.

“Business is better because the congestion has been alleviated, so we get more people who come from Henderson and Vegas,” Quatrale said.