AASHTO Journal, 10 April 2015
Federal and state officials gathered April 6 at Boulder City, Nev., to break ground on a $318 million highway bypass project that will speed travelers past the city near Hoover Dam. But the 15-mile project is seen in Nevada and Arizona as the first part of what will eventually be a new north-south Interstate 11.
Among those attending the ceremony were Gov. Brian Sandoval, Nevada’s U.S. senators – Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Dean Heller – and Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau.
“By improving mobility for thousands of drivers each day, the new bypass will greatly improve the ability of Clark County to compete economically,” said Nadeau. “As everyone who has made that commute in the morning, you know anything we can do to shorten the drive from Boulder City to Las Vegas and back again is a good thing.”
Regionally, officials say it launches the I-11 route that was designated in the 2012 MAP-21 law, and in years to come will link Las Vegas and Phoenix for the first time with an interstate highway. Right now, drivers use US 93. Eventually, I-11 planners say it could run from Mexico to Canada.
Proponents say Las Vegas and Phoenix are the largest adjacent cities in the nation without a direct freeway to connect them, but an I-11 would encompass that nearly 300-mile drive.
Reid warned that it is hard to get more federal funding for infrastructure projects through Congress, and said a series of short-term extensions of the Highway Trust Fund makes it hard for the Arizona and Nevada transportation agencies to make their own project plans.
The FHWA said US 93 serves as a major, regional corridor for interstate commerce – carrying as many as 34,000 vehicles per day on certain stretches. When completed in 2018, the Boulder City Bypass will extend from the Hoover Dam Bypass at the Nevada-Arizona border to I-515 in Henderson, Nev., and US 93 will be rerouted to the new bypass once completed.
The project is being coordinated by the Nevada Department of Transportation and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, and each has responsibility for separate construction phases.
The FHWA said the project relies on the federal agency’s Advance Construction program, which would give NDOT the option to be reimbursed up to $291 million or nearly 92 percent of project-related costs from its future federal highway funding apportionments.
The FHWA said it will also play a key role in helping to relocate US 93 to the new bypass, and to ensure the highway meets standards needed to one day become part of the future I-11 between Phoenix and Las Vegas.
Heller, in a message to Nevada’s Legislature, described the event as a groundbreaking for I-11, and vowed to seek federal funding to develop that larger route. He serves on the Finance Committee that will decide revenue options to fund a highway bill, along with the House Ways and Means Committee, and is on two committees that write parts of surface transportation authorizing legislation.
“Interstate 11 is important for our state and important to me,” he said. “I am pushing key legislation on I-11 on the Senate floor and am proud to see this project moving closer to become reality … It has the potential to open even more markets for tourism and trade which will improve our economy and create jobs.”