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April 21, 2014

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Boulder City Council endorses Vegas-to-Phoenix interstate

Click to enlarge photo

This Nevada Department of Transportation graphic shows the route of the proposed Boulder City Bypass. If U.S. 93 is designated an interstate between Las Vegas and Phoenix, the bypass route would become part of the interstate, officials say.

Click to enlarge photo

The proposed Hassayampa Freeway through the western Phoenix suburbs is outlined in red along the left of the map.

The Boulder City Council has added its voice to those advocating an interstate freeway between Las Vegas and Phoenix.

With a 4-0 vote, the council approved a resolution supporting the construction of the proposed Interstate 11 between the two cities. Councilwoman Linda Strickland was absent.

The resolution was similar to ones already passed by the Las Vegas City Council, the Regional Transportation Commission and a couple of Arizona municipalities.

But the Boulder City resolution added a paragraph that notes the interstate would go around town via the Boulder City Bypass route that was approved by the Federal Highway Administration in 2005. Boulder City voters have also endorsed that route.

The proposed interstate, currently only lines on a map, would follow U.S. 93 from Las Vegas to Phoenix. It has been a concept since 2007, when the Maricopa Association of Governments drew a freeway around the western edge of Phoenix, in the sparsely populated Hassayampa Valley, and designated it as a potential route for an interstate from Las Vegas.

The interstate proposal has been further helped by the construction of the Hoover Dam bypass bridge, which opens next year, to interstate standards and the widening to four lanes of U.S. 93 from Wickenburg to the new bridge. The newest two lanes are also being built to interstate standards.

In addition, the Nevada Department of Transportation recently redesigned the interchange of the proposed Boulder City Bypass and U.S. 93 to freeway standards and plan to request its designation as part of Interstate 515 when it is completed.

Interstate 11 still requires an act of Congress to receive the interstate designation, said Tom Skancke, a transportation consultant working for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. That would not happen until the next transportation authorization bill goes through Congress in 2010 or 2011, he said.

The next step, he said, is to begin the environmental assessments, which Arizona Department of Transportation spokeswoman Teresa Welborn said probably won’t start until the end of the year.

Skancke believes now, however, is the time to build support for the interstate.

“The resolutions show that constituents and entities support the designation,” he said. “That always helps.”

It also helps that the issue is on the radar of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has said through his spokesman that he plans to be helpful.

Rep. Dina Titus, whose District 3 includes Boulder City, also supports the idea.

“Congresswoman Titus believes that a Las Vegas-to-Phoenix freeway could have a positive impact for Southern Nevada, bringing more tourists and addressing traffic concerns,” her spokesman Andrew Stoddard said. “While there are challenges to making Interstate 11 a reality, she looks forward to working with local and federal officials to explore ways to connect these two metropolitan areas.”

The Boulder City Council members spent little time discussing the proposed interstate before unanimously offering their support.

“I think this sort of thing is needed,” Councilman Travis Chandler said. “Las Vegas could benefit from more traffic coming from Phoenix, and this reflects our interest and the decision of the voters as to what they prefer.”

After the meeting, Councilman Duncan McCoy said he read that Las Vegas and Phoenix are the only two metropolitan areas that do not have an interstate connecting them.

“For Las Vegas and Phoenix, it’s absolutely necessary,” he said. “Spokane and Missoula have an interstate connecting them. Elko and Salt Lake City have an interstate connecting them. Even Laramie and Rock Springs have an interstate connecting them.”

CORRECTION: This story was updated to correct the cities connected by Interstate 80. | (August 12, 2009)

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