Boulder City, Nevada prides itself in being a small town: only 16,000 people live in this community, located about 30 minutes from Las Vegas.
The townspeople enacted a slow growth ordinance in 1981 to control the community’s growth. The city is home to one of the greatest governmental projects ever created: Boulder Dam project, which would become Hoover Dam, providing electricity to 1.3 million customers. Its by-product, Lake Mead, holds the drinking water for 25 million people in the southwest. With an estimated 9 million visitors to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead each year, the community is definitely a busy attraction.
Boulder City faced a crossroads in 2018: phase 2 of a new interstate, I-11, was about to open. The highway will eventually connect Canada to Mexico, with a highly traveled connection between Vegas and Phoenix, Arizona. Once the 15-mile initial portion of highway would open, thousands of cars and trucks that passed through Boulder City each day on former U.S. Highway 93 (now Boulder City Parkway) would be able to stay on a bypass to the west and south of the small community, cutting drive time by as much as 30 minutes. While this would be a relief to locals who dreaded traffic jams through town, it made many worry about how it would impact the local economy.
City staff was already working to protect business interests and the local economy here months before the I-11 opened in August 2018, performing multiple retail studies, hiring an Economic Development Coordinator, and negotiating with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) for design and construction funding for the Boulder City Parkway Complete Street Project.
RTC and the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) worked together with the city to propose the Complete Street Project for Boulder City Parkway, the main street into Boulder City. The 1.4-mile project came with a price tag of $18.2 million, which included design, construction, and construction administration. The project would add landscaped medians, new detached, wider sidewalks, curb and gutter, bike lanes, pedestrian crossings, and more to a stretch of the Parkway between Veterans Memorial Drive and Buchanan Boulevard.
Keegan Littrell, Director of Boulder City Public Works, credited teamwork for the project’s success. “We received great input and cooperation from our businesses, who were involved in everything from the design phase to the final product,” Littrell said. “William Charles Construction was an excellent, responsive contractor that worked closely with businesses, making sure they knew each step along the way and listening to ideas and concerns.”
Just a few perks of this project:
- Improve safety and mobility especially for pedestrians and bicyclists by providing wider detached sidewalks, adding bike lanes and multiuse trails for connectivity to other trails;
- Landscape medians have proven to be effective traffic calming as well as providing pedestrian safety refuges at marked crossing locations equipped with pedestrian activated warning signals that utilize rectangular rapid flashing beacons;
- Grow the local economy by creating a more aesthetically pleasing gateway to the community;
- Lower transportation cost by providing transit options; and
- Improve health by promoting physical activity such as walking, biking, and skateboarding.
As you enter town from the west, there is an artistic tribute as part of the renovations: metal sculptures depicting the life of dam workers in the 1930s. These compliment the sculptures nearby on I-11. “It is amazing to see the transformation here—I’m especially impressed by the availability of wider sidewalks and bike lanes to allow for residents to bicycle and walk along the same path. The improved lighting, pedestrian crossings, and additional landscaping will complement our business fronts,” Mayor Kiernan McManus said. “As we recover from the COVID pandemic, our ability to draw in visitors will help our economy in Boulder City. We appreciate that this project will make the entry of our community inviting to people from around the world.”
In the end, the final tab for Boulder City’s portion of the work was $600,000—paying for much-needed infrastructure improvements to an aged section of the sewer main; replacing water services and fire hydrants, and amenities soon to be installed such as bike racks, shade covers, benches, and trash cans. “The difference when driving into Boulder City is incredible. Much of our community is active, so you regularly see people walking and riding bicycles along Boulder City Parkway,” said Jill Lagan, Boulder City Chamber of Commerce President. “The entire look is cleaner, more inviting, and boasts beautiful desert landscaping. It pays homage to our community’s past as well as our connection to Hoover Dam. Many of our businesses appreciate the pedestrian-friendly crossings, allowing their customers to cross the road safely.”
One business that is sure to benefit from the project is the Nevada State Railroad Museum, which is just one block from Boulder City Parkway. Boulder City made the expansion of the museum a priority for economic development. Beginning with state lobbying efforts in 2019 to promote the museum expansion plans, the city worked with RTC to develop a road to serve the museum and the City Council has approved RDA funding for trailhead and linear park improvements that will help draw more visitors to the community. Through these efforts and its partnership with RTC, the Chamber, and the state, this project is on the fast track for successful completion.
While the ribbon-cutting ceremony was limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic, about 40 businesses, construction and regional partners, and City staff celebrated the grand opening on July 13, 2020. Plans are already in motion for the next phase. “The city, in partnership with the RTC, has secured funding for the design of the next phase of the complete street improvements to Boulder City Parkway from the east end of the completed project to the eastern city limit,” said Jim Keane, Boulder City’s City Engineer. “This second phase will include additional improvements for pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicles to provide a safer and more aesthetically pleasing traveling experience for all users of the roadway."