NDOT OKs money for next step of Project Neon

In an effort to save long-term money on Project Neon, the massive Interstate 15 improvement from Sahara Avenue through the Spaghetti Bowl, the Nevada Department of Transportation Board of Directors on Tuesday authorized spending short-term money.

The board approved $3 million for financial and legal advice on a possible request-for-proposal on combining Phases 1 and 3 of the project.

NDOT officials are considering combining the financing - and possibly the ongoing operation and maintenance costs - of the two freeway-related phases of the five-phase project, estimated to cost between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion at completion in about 20 years. Phase 2 of Project Neon, which deals primarily with improvements to Charleston Boulevard on either side of I-15, is to be paid for by the city of Las Vegas.

The NDOT board, chaired by Gov. Brian Sandoval, approved the exploratory expenditure following a complex 90-minute discussion in Carson City.

NDOT Deputy Director Bill Hoffman explained that the expenditure is risky if the results do not meet the board's approval. But, he contended, cost-cutting alternatives must be explored because funding is an obstacle.

Conceding there are "merits and de­merits" to such a hefty expenditure, Sandoval said he wants the best information.

"That's why I'm going to support this motion today, that we're going to spend $3 million perhaps to save tens of millions of dollars down the road," he said.

One benefit of combining the work of the two phases - at a projected cost of $443 million to $489 million - is saving upward of $100 million in construction costs, Hoffman said in his proposal.

Selection of the advisers should take four months and their work could take another seven months.

Contact reporter Joe Hawk at jhawk@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2912. Follow him on Twitter: @RJroadwarrior.