Northwest valley residents briefed on coming highway interchange

For residents of the northwest Las Vegas Centennial Hills neighborhood, its a highway project that can’t get done soon enough.

But they’ll have to wait until at least 2017 before they’ll be able to drive the first piece of the interchange linking U.S. Highway 95 with the 215 Beltway.

Representatives of the Nevada Department of Transportation and the city of Las Vegas gave an overview of what’s expected to be a $225 million to $287 million project to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 60 people at an open house at the Centennial Hills Active Adult Center Wednesday night.

“I’m afraid it’s going to get very ugly out there by this time next year,” said Las Vegas Councilman Steve Ross, who helped field questions about the interchange project that has been on the drawing board for nearly a decade.

“But when this is done, it’s going to be awesome out there,” Ross said.

Transportation officials confirmed they have funds committed for the first phase of the project, which will have ramps for two key traffic movements, for vehicles from northbound U.S. 95 onto the eastbound Beltway and from the westbound Beltway onto southbound U.S. 95.

The first phase of the project is expected to cost between $25 million and $30 million and designers and engineers are expected to put the project to bid by the end of the year.

Construction is expected to begin in spring 2015 with completion in 20 to 24 months.

The most impressive feature of the interchange will be built in the first phase, a sweeping two-lane 2,400-foot flyover bridge that will soar 70 feet above the ground at its highest point and move traffic from the westbound Beltway to southbound U.S. 95.

That bridge structure will have 10 piers and will be built with 3 million pounds of rebar and 50 million pounds of concrete. It will be similar to the Spaghetti Bowl flyover that moves traffic from northbound Interstate 15 to northbound U.S. 95.

That’s also the portion of the project that is expected to produce the biggest traffic disruption and highway traffic will need to be temporarily rerouted when spans are built over the top of U.S. 95.

Department of Transportation Senior Project Manager Jenica Keller said the first phase of the project — technically labeled Phase 3A — also would include a collector-distributor road for southbound U.S. 95 and landscaping and imaging on barrier walls.

Collector-distributor roads are the shared frontages next to the main highways that handle exiting traffic that is slowing down and accelerating traffic that is entering the highway.

The ramp from northbound U.S. 95 to the Beltway and collector-distributor road will produce the least disruption on the project since it’s being built on vacant land.

People attending the meeting had few comments and questions about the project.

“The Department of Transportation has done a really good job of keeping the residents informed of the progress, so that’s probably why there weren’t very many questions,” Ross said. “They just want to see the project get done.”

While the first phase is about 60 percent designed and engineered, department officials still invited public comment about the project. Comments are due by May 30 and can be submitted through a state email address, info@dot.state.nv.us. Officials ask that writers reference US 95 NW Phase 3A in the subject line.

The entire U.S. 95-Beltway interchange is expected to take more than a decade to complete. It’s planned in five phases with new pieces of the project to be put to bid every three years.

The entire project includes 18 bridges, including three flyovers. It also incorporates bridges on surrounding surface streets to help connect the retail developments northeast and southwest of the interchange.

The aesthetics selected for the interchange will include images and patterns associated with the “big dig” fossil excavation at nearby Tule Springs. One of the images planned for a wall at the interchange will depict a Columbian mammoth at nearly full scale.

Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow him on Twitter @RickVelotta.