Nevada officials said they hope to open more lanes next week on Interstate 15 northeast of Las Vegas but are casting a wary eye on another storm that could bring torrential rains like those that washed out a portion of the desert highway last week.
The rain is moving north from the Baja region of northern Mexico after a hurricane of unprecedented force hit the resort area late Sunday inflicting heavy damage.
An earlier hurricane in the same area caused the heavy rains that fell in Nevada and washed out a section of I-15 on Sept. 8 near the Nevada town of Mesquite, causing lengthy detours for trucks and others traveling the critical western freight route that stretches from Southern California to Canada through Nevada and Utah.
After being closed for nearly five days, one lane in each direction of I-15 was reopened Sept. 12.
However, trucks traveling north from Las Vegas into Utah and points farther north and east must take the U.S. 93 detour or travel on I-15 through Nevada only at night, between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“That’s to accommodate the construction trucks because there’s a truck climbing lane there,” said Paul Enos, CEO of the Nevada Motor Transport Association. “We didn’t want to slow down the ability to get the road fixed.”
Truckers running the freight corridor are seeing a “lot of relief” from the lengthy detours even though they have to travel at night on I-15, he added.
“So we’re not seeing the delays, thank God, that we saw last week,” Enos said.
Utah officials reported last week that at one point there were 20-mile backups on the smaller detour highways that trucks had to negotiate to get across the state line.
Meanwhile, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Sept. 16 that the federal government is sending Nevada $1.5 million in emergency funding.
“We are providing funding today knowing that additional federal assistance will be needed to repair all the damage,” Foxx said.
Acting Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau said: “We understand the disruption to the entire region, and the toll this is taking on smaller roads which now must handle the additional traffic until repairs to I-15 are made.”