A Safe Bet, Roads Grow with City

As Las Vegas grows, a number of road-building and improvement projects have been implemented to alleviate traffic congestion and ease travel in and around the city

David Banasiak / December 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. 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

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.

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

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

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.

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