Federal Highway Administrator Mary E. Peters and Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn recently announced an agreement to settle a Sierra Club lawsuit that should clear the way to restart widening U.S. 95 in northwest Las Vegas as early as this fall.
The agreement allows for the addition of new lanes, including high occupancy lanes in each direction, and installation of technologies designed to reduce congestion and improve safety on the busy highway. The agreement also includes environmental measures that will test air filtration systems in nearby schools, retrofit Clark County school buses to make them run cleaner and gather information on vehicle emissions.
"Today’s announcement is about more than getting the U.S. 95 widening project back on track," said Federal Highway Administrator Mary E. Peters. "It’s also about keeping Las Vegas parents, commuters and truckers on the move and taking important steps to learn more about air quality."
Peters said the FHWA worked closely with Guinn and the Nevada Department of Transportation to reach the settlement as quickly as possible. The Sierra Club lawsuit, which stalled construction the additional lanes last August, will end once the U.S. District Court of Nevada accepts the settlement announced.
U.S. 95 is always congested with nearly 12,000 vehicles on the 6-lane highway traveling less than half the speed allowed during peak commuting hours, Peters said. Estimates indicate that even a slight increase in the speed vehicles could travel would save the public more than $8.5 million per year in delay costs. Each day, 190,000 vehicles travel the corridor, a number expected to surge to 300,000 per day as southern Nevada continues to be one of the country’s fastest growing regions.
The FHWA will monitor vehicle emissions at up to five major highway locations across the country to learn more about the behavior of these emissions. Results will help FHWA in its work with the Environmental Protection Agency to identify how best to deal with the pollutants. Peters noted that the FHWA supports steps already taken by the EPA to reduce vehicle emissions, including improved vehicle technologies that are projected to cut some pollutants by 60 to 90 percent. In all federal highway and bridge projects, FHWA applies air and water quality improvement programs, wildlife and ecosystem conservation, wetlands protection, roadside vegetation management and other environmental measures.