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Grateful for 3rd lane? I-15 into California sees smaller traffic backups

Updated November 26, 2023 - 6:08 pm

Traffic was backed up for about 10 miles, with some fluctuation, on the southbound Interstate 15 back to California on Sunday, officials said.

The backup stretched from Jean, about 30 miles south of Las Vegas, through the California state line, according to a series of X posts Sunday morning and afternoon from the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.

The backup, a familiar hassle for travelers driving back from Las Vegas to California after a holiday, changed in size through the morning and afternoon, according to the social media posts. The lineups weren’t as bad as in some years, when the highway would basically become a 20-mile-long parking lot.

RTC posted at about 10:15 a.m. that the backup was 10 miles, then said just after 11 a.m. the backup grew to 11 miles. The backup shrunk to 9 miles just after noon. Another post just after 1 p.m. said the backup was still nine miles long.

Miles-long traffic backups on the main road from Las Vegas to California on a holiday weekend are unfortunately common as the three lanes on I-15 in Nevada become two lanes in California. Last year, the Thanksgiving weekend backup stretched to about 16 miles at one point. Earlier this year, the post-New Year’s Day logjam was 19 miles long and a backup on the Memorial Day weekend grew to about 12 miles.

But officials, and drivers, have been hoping that a part-time third lane on the right shoulder of the southbound I-15 on the California side between the agricultural checkpoint and border of the two states would help reduce traffic backups. The lane, which opened in August, is open to traffic between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Sundays and Mondays.

After Labor Day, the first holiday in which the part-time lane was open, a California Department of Transportation spokesperson said in an email that, “On Labor Day leading into 12 p.m., drivers saved approximately 20 to 40 minutes in travel time from Jean to the agricultural station.”

As well, according to Caltrans, Labor Day traffic on the southbound I-15 started to get heavy around Primm at the California state line, indicating that 2023’s Labor Day backup appeared to have been shorter than in previous years.

This year’s reported backup of about 10 miles was shorter than not only the 16-mile backup in 2022, but the 20-mile backup in 2021 and the 12-mile backup in 2020.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com.

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