Two years ago, a dispute arose between Fisher Sand and Gravel and Las Vegas Paving about a capital project that involved making significant and much-needed improvements to the Las Vegas Beltway. The project is again in the news, and that has prompted a series of questions from readers unfamiliar with the endeavor or confused about the latest developments. Today my goal is to bring everybody up to speed.
What exactly is this project?
The Clark County Public Works Department issued a request for proposals to widen the Las Vegas Beltway between Decatur Boulevard and Tenaya Way in 2009. As the northwest valley has grown over the years, the need for improvements became more obvious. Not only that, but the $117 million project was estimated to create 200 jobs -- also an important consideration given the economic conditions.
So, who won the bid?
The two finalists for the job were Fisher Sand and Gravel and Las Vegas Paving. Fisher's bid came in at $112.2 million and Las Vegas Paving offered to complete the project for $116.8 million. Despite the $4.6 million difference in bids, the Clark County Commission voted to award the contract to Las Vegas Paving.
Wait, I thought government entities always had to go with the lowest bidder. Doesn't the Clark County Commission?
That once was the case, but that law changed in the early 2000s. You might remember when AF Construction bid lower than Perini Building Co., a company many perceived as a more experienced firm, and landed the contract to build the Regional Justice Center. That project was three years late and came in overbudget. Although an arbitration panel found the county mostly at fault, it prompted local officials to lobby for new laws.
Also, the board doesn't have to go with the lower bidder if members believe the bid is not a responsible proposal. In the Beltway case, Commissioner Steve Sisolak claimed two of Fisher's subcontractors did not have highway construction licenses.
This all happened two years ago, why haven't the improvements been made?
Well, a whole bunch of legal action and judges' rulings slowed the project for years. Fisher filed a lawsuit claiming commissioners were biased toward union companies and that is why Las Vegas Paving was chosen.
One judge ordered the county to pick Fisher, which started a whole new cycle of legal filings. Another banned Commissioner Tom Collins from voting, which spawned another lawsuit. Essentially it went on for years, but that is all in our past now.
Is it in our past?
Well, hopefully. Last month Fisher and Las Vegas Paving struck a deal to settle the dispute. Fisher will be paid $5 million to go away and Las Vegas Paving crews will widen the freeway.
Fantastic. And I suppose that is our money being paid to Fisher?
Some of it. Las Vegas Paving will cough up some of that money and the rest will come from interest earned on the project funding that has been held in escrow since 2009. The project was funded by money collected from the amount we pay in motor vehicle taxes and development fees.
What is this project going to do for us commuters, anyway?
This will be particularly helpful to residents who live in the northwest. The delays associated with the project could have left residents with far worse congestion had development not slowed, but in any case, it is still needed. Crews will be converting the road cluttered with traffic signals into a divided highway much like the rest of the Beltway to the west.
Traffic signals at Jones Boulevard, Bradley Road and Decatur Boulevard will be removed. Interchanges will be added at Decatur and Jones.
That's cool, but what about interchanges at Interstate 15 north and Highway 95?
Both of those are part of the Nevada Department of Transportation's long-term plans. Those depend on when funding becomes available. But work is expected to begin on both of those interchanges within the next five years.
Will the Beltway ever be completed?
The Beltway, also called the Bruce Woodbury Beltway, Clark County 215 or Interstate 215 depending on what section you are traveling, will never be a full circle. The combination of Nellis Air Force Base and dense, older neighborhoods east of Interstate 15 would make that road nearly impossible to build.
When can we expect this new segment to be finished?
Now that all the legal wrangling has died down, crews from Las Vegas Paving are expected to begin work on the widening project within four months. The project is expected to take two years to complete.
Wow, that took a lot of research. I'll bet you need a vacation.
Yes I do. So if any transportation questions pop into your mind, please scribble them down and shoot me an email or give me a call after July 24.
If you have a question, tip or tirade, call Adrienne Packer at 702-387-2904, or send an email to roadwarrior @reviewjournal.com. Include your phone number.