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October 21, 2014

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Transportation:

Residents get some long-awaited details about massive I-15 widening project

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Justin M. Bowen

Project Neon will widen Interstate 15 between the Spaghetti Bowl and Sahara Avenue and will add a new ramp to connect the U.S. 95 HOV lanes with the I-15 express lanes.

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With major improvements to a stretch of Interstate 15 moving ahead at an accelerated pace, the Nevada Department of Transportation is reaching out to the public before the project shifts into gear.

The department announced plans earlier this year to consolidate four phases of Project Neon construction into a single massive project. The change will allow the project to be completed in five years instead of being spread out over 20 years. It is also expected to save at least $80 million in construction costs.

But the accelerated timeline is a radical change for residents who live and do business near the I-15 who will be permanently displaced by the upcoming construction.

On Wednesday, NDOT held the final in a series of public meetings meant to update the community on the new plan for Project Neon. Attendees had a chance to review the highway design and ask questions of project manager Cole Mortensen. The department is also accepting comments by mail or online through Dec. 20.

Project Neon will overhaul a 3.7 mile stretch of I-15 from Sahara Avenue to U.S. 95, the most heavily trafficked section of road in the state that is often congested and is the site of about three vehicle accidents per day.

The project will include 13 lane miles of bridges, a new access to Wall Street and improvements to Charleston and Martin Luther King boulevards and Grand Central Parkway. The project is expected to double the capacity of the freeway interchange to a half-million cars a day. It is expected to cost $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion, Mortensen said.

Before the project can begin, the department needs to acquire nearly 150 properties surrounding the highway that will be impacted by the expansion.

Those plans were a key focus of Wednesday night's discussion and drew several questions from residents who live or own businesses in the area.

Kate Reich owns an apartment complex on Martin Luther King Boulevard that is targeted for acquisition for Project Neon. She said the past several years have been spent in limbo.

“I can’t sell my property. I can’t improve it. I can’t tear it down and build something new,” she said.

Dealing with NDOT through the various delays and revisions to the plan has been “frustrating,” Reich said, but she’s glad the project is moving forward, if only so that she can sell her property and move on.

“It’s going to be acquired, I just don’t know when,” she said. “I’ve been looking for answers for a long time, and this meeting is the closest I’ve gotten.”

Mortensen said Wednesday night that NDOT plans to acquire the needed properties within the next two years, with construction expected to begin in 2015.

Comments can be mailed to the Nevada Department of Transportation, 1263 S. Stewart St., Carson City, addressed to Cole Mortensen.

Comments can also be emailed to [email protected], with “Project Neon P3 Public Meeting” in the subject line. Comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. Dec. 20.

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