Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 | 9:24 p.m.
North Las Vegas celebrated the grand opening of the first portion of its North 5th Street roadway improvement project — the largest project of its kind in the city’s history.
The project, funded by the Regional Transportation Commission, cost $24 million to construct and $30 million for right-of-way acquisitions, officials said.
The first phase of improvements runs from Owens to Carey Avenues. Planning started for the project in 2002. Construction on the first phase began in 2008.
“My hair was colt black when we started this project,” said Councilman Robert Eliason, who sits on the RTC board. The audience laughed. “You can see what color it is now, but I still have it,” he said.
As recently as 2008, the now eight-lane road was one lane in each direction, said Qiong Liu, the city’s public works director. The new, wider road — which is meant to allow for “multi-modal” transportation, meaning bikes, pedestrians, buses and cars — will bring people through, not around, North Las Vegas, she said.
The eight lanes include six auto lanes, two dedicated transit lanes — leaving the area open to RTC rapid transit lines — and 10-foot-wide trails separated by a 10-foot-wide landscape buffer on both sides of the road.
The ribbon-cutting also unveiled the completion of a $1.2 million façade and landscape improvement at Jerry’s Nugget Casino, 1821 Las Vegas Blvd. North, where Thursday’s event was held.
Before the ribbon-cutting ceremony, city and RTC dignitaries doted on the project.
“We’re happy to be where we are in this process,” said Mayor Shari Buck, noting there is still much work left to be done in North Las Vegas. “It’s a great entry point for our city.”
The project will connect downtown North Las Vegas with newer parts of the city, Buck said, fostering a better business environment throughout.
“We want people to know they’re coming into a city that’s well taken care of,” she said.
Councilman Richard Cherchio said he hoped the project would bring people back to downtown North Las Vegas, spurring revitalization in the area.
“This will contribute to making downtown the center of town again,” he said. “It always was before.”
The North 5th Street improvement project is a major aspect of the city’s downtown master plan. The master plan envisions a downtown North Las Vegas full of landscaped boulevards, pedestrian-friendly shopping centers and mixed-use housing developments.
Today, the downtown area has little definition and few destination points. That’s something officials hope will change during the next ten to 15 years, evidenced by a new City Hall and the road improvement project.
The struggling economy slowed the project, Liu said, but the RTC and the city still completed the first phase about $800,000 under budget and slightly ahead of schedule.
Eliason said he was most excited about the project’s regional implications. By connecting the city from north to south, and by connecting older parts of the city with newer developments, North Las Vegas will have the opportunity to develop its community, he said.
Two more phases are left for the project.
The next is expected to begin in early 2011 and will cost $35 million. The other is expected to begin in late 2012 and cost about $30 million. When complete, the improvements will run from Cheyenne Avenue to Owens Avenue and will include bridges over Losee Road and Interstate 15.
By 2030, officials said, the project will serve about 100,000 vehicles each day.