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November 28, 2014

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Cactus Avenue interchange among next I-15 projects

Proposed interchange

The next round of major projects on Interstate 15 will likely be in the far southern end of the Las Vegas Valley.

Officials from the Nevada Department of Transportation presented two projects to residents of the Southern Highlands community at a public meeting Thursday afternoon.

The project that likely will most impact residents will be the construction of a new interchange at Cactus Avenue.

Currently, there are only three interchanges in a six-mile stretch of the interstate: Blue Diamond Road, Silverado Ranch Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway.

The new interchange will provide more access to the growing communities near the freeway and will provide a new east-west route to cross the southern part of the valley.

“We don’t have a nice grid network that other areas have, so these interchanges are critical,” said David Chestnut, the chair of the Enterprise Town Advisory Board.

The freeway, railroad tracks or natural barriers block most of the major streets from crossing the entire region, he said.

Ed Miranda, the senior project manager for the Cactus Avenue project, said despite a slowdown in growth, the interchange is still needed.

“There is a need now because Silverado has already toped out,” he said. “In the future, the need will be even greater.”

The project will connect Cactus Avenue on each side of the freeway for the first time and will provide access to both directions of I-15 with an interchange similar to the one at Silverado Ranch Boulevard, Miranda said.

The project also includes major flood control features because a wash runs under the freeway where the interchange will be, Miranda said.

The construction of the project will cost more than $57 million, but an exact budget and timeline have yet to be set, officials said.

Miranda said he hopes to begin construction in mid-2012 and expects it will take about two years to complete.

Sam and Tash Lalani said while they aren’t excited about seeing more construction to deal with on the road, they are looking forward to the new interchange.

The couple, who near Blue Diamond Road, often take side roads to get to the closest supermarket, which is on Cactus Avenue near the freeway. The interchange will give them a faster route to get to shops and restaurants, they said.

“This will be a whole lot more useful,” Sam Lalani said. “It’s difficult now for us just to get to a grocery store.”

Miranda said while it may take two years to build the entire project, much of the work will be off the freeway on the side roads and drainage facilities, so there should be less impact to motorists.

The second project coming to I-15 is the addition of an intelligent transportation system between the Las Vegas Beltway and the California border near Primm.

The system will include overhead dynamic message signs similar to those on freeways in other parts of the valley as well as cameras and sensors to monitor traffic, and ramp meters to control the number of cars entering the interstate.

The ITS project, as it is called, will tie into the existing Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation, or FAST, program which the Regional Transportation Commission, NDOT and the highway patrol uses to monitor freeways.

The good news is that motorists should hardly notice the project as it is built, said Tony Lorenzi, the project manager.

“There will be very minimal impact,” he said. “And we don’t anticipate any right-of-way acquisitions.”

Most of the work for the project will be done along the side of the road and any lane closures should be brief and will likely happen at night, Lorenzi said.

The $11 million design-build project is expected to get final approval next spring and be done in the middle of 2012, officials said.

The result should benefit motorists as emergency responders should be able to clear up accidents more quickly and the FAST program allows people to get traffic alerts online or on their mobile phones, officials said.

Lorenzi said NDOT is also working with transportation officials in California so they can have a message board on the other side of the state line to warn motorists if there are problems.

In addition to the two projects at Thursday’s meeting, NDOT also plans to eventually build an interchange at Starr Avenue, to add more access to I-15 between Cactus Avenue and St. Rose Parkway.

A public meeting for that project is scheduled for Sept. 21 in the Southern Highlands Preparatory School gymnasium, 11500 Southern Highlands Parkway.

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