Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009 | 4:06 p.m.
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When construction on the latest Interstate 15 project begins in early 2010, most of the interstate near Las Vegas will have been under construction within the past year.
“We will have I-15 pretty much messed up all the way from Craig Road down almost to the state line,” Nevada Department of Transportation Director Susan Martinovich said Thursday at a kickoff for the latest project.
Interstate 15, the most highly traveled corridor in the state with 500,000 vehicles using the freeway daily, has had major construction projects under way since September 2008.
The I-15 south project is expected to begin early next year, but the transportation department held a kickoff celebration Thursday with the contractor, Las Vegas Paving, that included Gov. Jim Gibbons signing the $246.5 million contract.
“These kind of projects are so important to the future of Nevada. They’re so important to the economy of Las Vegas,” Gibbons said. “Every foot of improved highway is more than just about capacity, it’s more than just about improving the safety. It’s about creating jobs, it’s about improving the economy, it’s about improving the tourism that we depend on.”
The freeway has been under construction from the Las Vegas Beltway interchange in the south valley to Sahara Avenue since September 2008.
That project hit minor delays, but should be done by the end of this year, Martinovich said.
Motorists also have been dealing with construction on I-15 from the Spaghetti Bowl to Craig Road since September 2008. That project should be finished in the fall of 2010.
Outside the valley, crews have been repaving parts of I-15 near Logandale since April, which should be done in November. Work is also expected to begin soon on repaving the last 17 miles of the road near the California line.
And now, this new I-15 south project will put the interstate under construction from Silverado Ranch Boulevard to Tropicana Avenue.
But all the work is “not a bad thing,” Martinovich said.
“(It’s) a really good thing because that means that people are working, the economy is moving forward and when all is done we will have a product for the money we have invested in the infrastructure that will last years,” she said. “So while it can be very frustrating during construction the outcome and what’s happening is very positive.”
The project will include a new overpass at Sunset Road and widened overpasses at Warm Springs Road and Russell Road. It also includes improvements to the railroad overpass between Russell Road and Sunset Road and the interchanges at the beltway, Tropicana Avenue, Blue Diamond Road and Silverado Ranch Boulevard.
But the biggest improvement included in the project, according to NDOT project manager John Terry, will be the new collector-distributor roads along the sides of the freeway.
Those roads are designed to eliminate the weaving of traffic entering the freeway from the beltway and the northbound traffic exiting the freeway at Russell Road, Terry said.
Funding for most of the project comes from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s hotel taxes. The project is scheduled to be finished the spring of 2012.
LVCVA president Rossi Ralenkotter said the project is important for the resort industry in Las Vegas.
“It’s a stimulus for jobs not only now, but in the future,” he said. “We’re on the verge of opening the largest hotel complex in the history of Las Vegas – CityCenter, which opens in December. This (project) is critical to that.”
Ralenkotter said I-15 brings 8 million visitors from Southern California to the region each year, adding $10 billion to the local economy.
But the project will also benefit the people who live and work in the city, he said.
“It’s not only important for the visitors, but for all of us who live in Las Vegas,” he said. “It’s going to improve our quality of life, it’s going to enable us to move more efficiently and effectively on the I-15 corridor for those people going to work in the hotel properties on the Strip.”
The project is the state’s second design-build project, which allows construction to begin before the entire design is completed. Martinovich said the design-build aspect will save the state money and will cut the project time by 18 months.
The first design-build project in the state was the I-15 north project from the Spaghetti Bowl to Craig Road, which is on track to finish nine months ahead of schedule, Martinovich said.
“We feel that because of the success of that project we needed … to move forward and do it again,” she said.
Las Vegas Paving, which also is one of the main contractors for the two other I-15 projects in the valley, said it focused on keeping the jobs created by other projects in the area.
“We felt it’s important that the money’s being generated in Las Vegas and the money’s going to stay in Las Vegas,” company project manager Corey Newcome said. “We thought that’s a really important part of our team, that it’s going to be Las Vegas Paving, Las Vegas resources, doing a project in Las Vegas and the money’s staying in Las Vegas.”
The project received some criticism two weeks ago when the state transportation board approved the contract for Las Vegas Paving, and at the same time, awarded the three losing bidders $300,000 each.
Martinovich said Thursday that awarding the stipend to the other contractors was an important incentive to get at least three bids, as is required for design-build projects.
“These are incredibly expensive and time-consuming projects to put together,” Newcome said, pointing out that at times the company had 40 to 50 people working full-time on the proposal, which took more than a year to prepare.
Martinovich also said the stipend allows the state to take ownership of the ideas and concepts included in the failed bids, which means that Las Vegas Paving can include those ideas in the final design, which benefits everyone, she said.