Updated November 28, 2022 - 3:35 pm
First it stretched to 16 miles. Then it eased to 12. Then 6. And it kept mercifully shrinking from there. By about 7 p.m., it was 2 miles.
The backup of post-holiday traffic on the southbound Interstate 15 heading out of Las Vegas to California is an annual tradition for drivers who find themselves crossing between the two southwestern states on Thanksgiving.
On Sunday, it was no different. The backup from the California state line was about 16 miles by 11:30 a.m. By about 3 p.m., it was 12 miles. By the evening it was down to 6 miles, and at about 7 p.m., it was 2 miles long, according to the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada’s online FAST dashboard, which provides snapshots of Nevada Department of Transportation cameras along the highway.
The cameras showed huge lines of cars, packed on the road like sardines, throughout the day. A sign on I-15 near Russell Road in Las Vegas kept giving drive-time updates. From Russell Road to the California inspection station just over the Golden State border, it was 120 minutes — far longer than the drive would take on an average day.
“The long holiday weekend typically brings thousands of visitors to our city,” said David Swallow, the commission’s deputy chief executive officer, in a statement issued Nov. 18 warning drivers to be aware of the expected Thanksgiving traffic delays.
“It is not uncommon to have a 20 mile back up leaving Las Vegas,” Nevada State Police Highway Patrol Sgt. Jason Buratczuk said in an email in the week leading up to Thanksgiving.
The Nevada Highway Patrol and the California Highway Patrol also joined forces to patrol the much-traveled I-15 stretch between the two states. While both agencies netted a combined 350 traffic stops with 299 speed violations on Wednesday, numbers from Sunday’s enforcement operation weren’t yet immediately available Sunday evening.
AAA Nevada had also said that this Thanksgiving was expected to be one of the busiest for travel in the past two decades, with about 55 million Americans expected to travel during the holiday, with 49 million of that total expected to do it by car.
For those visiting Las Vegas who opted to travel by air, it was busy but not unusually so for a typical Sunday at Harry Reid International Airport, a spokesperson said.
“Busy, steady stream of people but nothing unexpected,” said airport spokesperson Joe Rajchel.
Contact Brett Clarkson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-324-6421. Follow @BrettClarkson_ on Twitter.