Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 | 6:55 p.m.
The state Transportation Board on Tuesday approved spending up to $3 million to hire consultants to find the best way to finance and build the Interstate 15 improvement project that extends 3.7 miles between the Spaghetti Bowl and Sahara Avenue.
Current plans call for construction on the $1.8 billion plan dubbed Project Neon to start in 2015 and be completed in 2017, said Transportation Director Rudy Malfabon.
It's another step forward in building the project.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, the chairman of the board, said spending the $3 million could save the state "tens of millions of dollars" in construction costs.
The department will solicit bids from legal and financial experts to examine the construction alternatives.
The board wants to know such things as the benefits to awarding a single contractor to design, finance and build the project or if the state should go the traditional way in issuing bonds and accepting bids for the construction segment only.
The project is anticipated to generate 4,100 jobs and spur the Las Vegas economy, which was hit hard by the recession.
Deputy Transportation Director Bill Hoffman said this is one of the department's highest priorities. He said the crash rate on I-15 from Desert Inn Road to U.S. 95 is double the rest of the state. And an average 270,000 cars travel daily on I-15 north of Sahara Avenue.
If the department chose a single contractor to design, finance and build the improvements, the state would not have to start repayments until completion of the work in 2017. And during that time, money could be used for other projects in the state, said the transportation officials.
Hoffman said the project would improve access to Charleston Boulevard. And work is scheduled on Martin Luther King Boulevard to be paid for by the city, officials told the board.
The department has said it will need 48 parcels for right of way in phase one of the project. It has acquired 19, has started condemnation on eight and is in negotiations with the owners of the remaining parcels.
Estimated cost is $104 million to $161 million for these rights of way and utilities.