Race fans will enjoy a much less aggravating drive to and from next weekend's NASCAR events.
Gone are the orange cones and winding barriers that last year turned Interstate 15 into a giant parking lot near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
A $240 million freeway-widening project between the Spaghetti Bowl and Craig Road finished six months ahead of schedule. That will relieve the bottleneck when a sea of spectators pour in and out of the raceway.
"We do expect it to be a better drive this year," said Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Chelita Rojas. Still, speedway officials encourage racing fans to ride mass transit to reduce traffic. They estimated that each busload of fans takes 30 to 40 cars off the road.
Coach America offers the main shuttle service for the event. It replaced Citizens Area Transit last year as the speedway's preferred carrier.
Crowds swell during the three days, peaking at about 150,000 fans attending the Feb. 28 race, said John Bisci, speedway spokesman.
He likened the throng to two Super Bowls crammed into one venue.
For that reason, people should show up at least a couple hours early and enjoy the live entertainment, Bisci said. That will prevent them from swarming the speedway at once and getting stuck in traffic 15 minutes before a race.
"There's a lot to keep you occupied," Bisci said.
The speedway, Metropolitan Police Department and highway patrol work together to keep traffic flowing smoothly.
Using an elaborate plan that's evolved over the years, they funnel motorists through various gates to avoid traffic snarls. Limousines, taxicabs and shuttle buses are directed to separate gates.
Bisci said it helps that I-15 and Las Vegas Boulevard run parallel on both sides of the raceway. In some parts of the country, NASCAR tracks have only one major thoroughfare nearby, creating a logjam, he said.
When the speedway opened in the mid-1990s, nobody directed traffic, resulting in chaos, Bisci said.
He recalled a local TV news team filming frustrated fans ensnared in gridlock before a race, ripping up their tickets in disgust.
"Traffic was horrible," he said. "Every year it gets a little better."
For information about shuttle service and fares call 702-948-7360 or visit http://www.coachamerica.com. For race information call 702-644-6444.
Contact reporter Scott Wyland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-455-4519.