A Safe Bet, Roads Grow with City

Dec. 28, 2000
Las Vegas Boulevard--the Strip--home to flashy casinos, with facades constructed to resemble historical or mythological images. One resembles an Egyptian pyramid amid an oasis, another the legendary castle of Camelot, while another draws inspiration from ancient Roman architecture. One of the latest casinos to spring up on the strip bares a fanciful likeness to the New York City skyline. Each attempts to foster an exotic setting to draw pleasure seekers, searching for a fantastic stage show, or the thrill of gambling.
Las Vegas Boulevard--the Strip--home to flashy casinos, with facades constructed to resemble historical or mythological images. One resembles an Egyptian pyramid amid an oasis, another the legendary castle of Camelot, while another draws inspiration from ancient Roman architecture. One of the latest casinos to spring up on the strip bares a fanciful likeness to the New York City skyline. Each attempts to foster an exotic setting to draw pleasure seekers, searching for a fantastic stage show, or the thrill of gambling. As people are drawn to the excitement of this Potemkin village, Las Vegas Boulevard and its adjoining arterials have become congested with traffic jams.

In 1994 the Nevada DOT (NDOT) conducted a study, which concluded that 227,250 vehicles per day cross the Strip at Sahara Avenue, Spring Mountain Road, Flamingo Road and Tropicana Avenue. These arterials move traffic east-west, between I-15 and the Strip. The high volume of traffic on these roads was viewed as a problem.

One solution is the Desert Inn Super Arterial which begins in the west section of Las Vegas at Valley View Boulevard and heads east spanning I-15, Highland Drive, the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and Industrial Road with an elevated overpass. It continues east, tunneling under the Strip and ends at Paradise Road, near the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The Super Arterial

The six-lane, two-mile long Super Arterial is designed to carry 70,000 vehicles daily, from one side of Las Vegas Boulevard and I-15 to the other without stopping. It is anticipated that about 40,000 of the vehicles will come off of Sahara and Spring Mountain Roads. Presently, according to Bobby Shelton, public information coordinator, Department of Public Works, Clark County Nev., the new roadway is carrying 45,000 vehicles per day.

The Super Arterial also is a quicker route than any of the existing east-west routes. It is estimated that a commuter driving at the posted 45 mph speed limit can cover the distance from one end of the uninterrupted route to the other in about 160 seconds. This reduces time spent traveling east-west or vice versa, by about 15 minutes.

The road was financed with $45 million raised from a 1% hotel room tax levied by Clark County, and $47 million supplied by the federal government. Construction involved cooperation between the county and the Nevada DOT (NDOT). The county was responsible for all surface work, while NDOT handled the bridge work over I-15 and the railroad tracks. Surface work involved asphalt paving. The bridge work and the roadway surface in the tunnel involved concrete paving. The tunnel under the Strip features a pumping system that can handle a 100-year flood based on FEMA maps produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Other flood features of the tunnel include a collapsible center divider in case vehicles need to turn around due to high flood waters.

The contractors involved in the project were Frehner Construction Co., who worked on the overpass; Las Vegas Paving Construction Co., which handles both asphalt and concrete paving; and the Wells Cargo Construction Co., which conducted the surface construction for the county. All are located in Las Vegas.

The road was opened last spring at a ceremony attended by Bob Miller, the governor of Nevada, as well as Clark County officials, USDOT officials, Nevada state senator Phil O'Donnel, and other Nevada political leaders, and Debbie Reynolds, actress and casino owner. Reynolds officially opened the road with a ribbon cutting and jokingly thanked the county and state for building a new highway to her casino. Bruce Woodbury, County Commissioner, who emceed the ceremony, called the road a "center piece of our master building plan."

Miller said of the road and the commitment to road construction in Las Vegas, "This is not the last road being built in the area." The governor was right, for even while he was speaking work was under way on the Desert Inn Road relocation project.

Project extension

Talk to a cabbie while you drive around Las Vegas and he'll tell you it's one of the fastest growing cities in America. He'll also complain about the traffic difficulties this growth has caused. The Desert Inn Road relocation project, like the Super Arterial, is an answer to the road congestion problems.

The idea for the project came after work had started on the Super Arterial. It was inspired by a need to expand the Las Vegas Convention Center and combat the growing traffic. It also was seen as a natural extention of the Super Arterial project.

Funded by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the $15 million relocation project involved depressing the Desert Inn Road below ground and moving it 100 ft south to sustain the continuity of the completed Super Arterial.

According to Clark County, the relocation brings a number of benefits to the area. It was designed to continue the improvement of east-west traffic flow begun with the construction of the Super Arterial. It also will allow for future expansion of the convention center and reduce pedestrian safety risks.

By putting the road underground the potential for conflict between convention attendees and vehicles was decreased. Work on this project was begun in February 1996 and the new underground roadway was open to traffic in April.

The Big O

Perhaps the most ambitious project under way in Las Vegas is the Las Vegas Beltway affectionaly called the Big O Beltway, when completed it will be a freeway loop encircling the Las Vegas Valley. It will provide a bypass for through traffic, thus relieving congestion of I-15 and U.S.-95. According to Clark County it also will improve access to McCarran International Airport, increase traffic capacity, and decrease noise and air pollution.

The beltway will consist of three connected segments including a southern, western and nothern route. Construction will be done in sections, begining at I-15 and going easterly and westerly.

This will constitute the southern segment of the beltway, which is presently under construction. In fact a portion of this segment--the Airport Connector, from I-15 to McCarran International Airport--is finished, and opened to traffic in December 1994. Another portion stretching from Warm Springs Road to Windmill Lane opened in October 1995.

As planned the southern segment consists of 20.4 miles of limited access highway extending from Tropicana Avenue, one-half mile west of Durango Drive in the west, to Lake Mead Drive at U.S.-95 in the east.

The entire southern segment of the beltway is expected to be contracted for construction by the year 2000. The county foresees this segment accommodating in excess of 125,000 cars per day, with about one third traveling to and from the airport.