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I-15 mess: Motorist wait times impossible to predict


Southern Nevada motorists had lots of questions last week about “extra time” and “added time,” and it had nothing to do with the World Cup.

Most fellow road warriors were tuned in to how long it would take to get through two headache-producing construction delays on Interstate 15 north of Las Vegas.

There’s a little more information to share after motorists were given a short reprieve last weekend.

Whether you’re heading to the scenic wonders of Zion or Bryce Canyon national parks, the red rock amphitheater that is home to the Tuacahn theater or Cedar City’s annual Shakespeare festival, you almost have to endure the pain of I-15 this summer.

Motorists shared their pain with me when they weighed in on the Nevada Transportation Department’s 26-mile construction zone that narrows the highway to one lane in each direction for a repaving project.

The department gave everybody a break for the three-day Fourth of July holiday weekend, but didn’t provide any detail about what lies ahead.

Warrior reader Jeff was among those who emailed in for more details:

“We were planning a trip to the St. George area and have been aware for some time about the 26 miles of construction north of Vegas and the Virgin River project in Arizona. We have looked everywhere and cannot find out about how much extra time to allow. Every source says allow extra time but it is never quantified.”

Unfortunately, it’s one of those answers none of us wants to hear.

“This is subjective; we don’t have a mechanism to estimate travel time delays,” department spokesman Damon Hodge said. “Our guess is to allow at least an extra hour of travel time.”

And that Fourth of July holiday reprieve? It was just for last weekend. Through the construction zone, there’s intermittent one-lane restrictions northbound and southbound the length of the project, even on Saturdays and Sundays when construction work is shut down.

The steep grade at Glendale on northbound I-15 now has a chunk of two-lane traffic to enable cars to get around bogged-down big rigs. I received several reports of stalled, overheated vehicles in that stretch of highway last week.

Farther north in Arizona, there are single-lane restrictions in both directions through the Virgin River Gorge. How long is the delay? It depends on the volume of the traffic, but recent travelers say they’ve gotten through that cone zone in 30 minutes. All bets are off if there’s a fender-bender in the single lane.

That brings up the topic of alternative routes, which are few in that part of the country.

For motorists heading north to Cedar City, Utah, it seems pointless to take U.S. Highway 93 through Alamo and Caliente and cut east to Cedar City. Time estimates by Mapquest from Las Vegas to Cedar City show it would take two hours and 41 minutes to go 170 miles on I-15. Assume an hour and a half delay and the drive time becomes just more than four hours.

The U.S. 93 alternative takes four hours and 12 minutes, according to Mapquest, and the distance is 247 miles. It’s just too far out of the way for any time savings.

Some motorists have suggested taking Arizona Highway 91 north at Beaver Dam, Ariz., to get around the Virgin River Gorge traffic. That’s only beneficial if your destination is Ivins or Santa Clara, Utah, northwest of St. George.

And, if you have a car that struggles with steep grades, forget it if you’re northbound. All that altitude you gain in the Virgin River Gorge occurs in about a 5-mile span just outside Beaver Dam.

It’s an interesting route to take for a scenic diversion — the red rocks around Ivins are fabulous — but there’s no time to be gained going that way.

SUGGESTION BOX

Warrior reader Dan is dropping this sign concern into the transportation suggestion box. It concerns motorists traveling east on West Flamingo Road, just west of the I-15 interchange.

“Quite often, I see a significant number of vehicles positioning to get on that very short lane immediately after crossing Valley View Boulevard only to make a sudden lane change (back to the lane to the left of it), perhaps realizing it’s not the intended onramp to southbound I-15 at the next traffic light,” Dan’s email said.

“For safety’s sake (and sanity too) that ‘Right Lane Must Turn Right’ sign would serve its purpose better if moved in full view closer to the Valley View intersection. In addition, the sign should also clearly indicate ‘Second Right’ for the I-15 onramp or something to that effect.”

Dan’s scenario depicts a big oops for motorists unfamiliar with the area (like tourists). I know I-15 is coming up. I know I have to make a right turn to get on it. I need to get over to the right.

But instead of being in position to get on I-15, a motorist finds himself on the turnoff to Hotel Rio Drive, which provides access to Dean Martin Drive from Flamingo.

I like Dan’s suggestion to warn motorists about the turnoff farther west and provide greater clarity on where to turn to get on the freeway.

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