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Sandoval chastises NDOT officials over Car-nado campaign

Gov. Brian Sandoval wasn’t amused when Car-nado consumed headlines and newscasts across Southern Nevada.

He didn’t like the thought of the state’s largest infrastructure project being branded as a natural disaster. The Car-nado nickname coined by the Nevada Department of Transportation “caught me completely off guard,” the governor said.

“ ‘Traffic Hell’ is not the headline we’re looking for,” Sandoval said Monday, referring to a headline that appeared on the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s front page Oct. 26, when several ramps were closed at the Spaghetti Bowl interchange in downtown Las Vegas.

“I think the jury is still out,” Sandoval said, expressing doubt about the effectiveness of the pithy name. “It may come out well; it may not.”

Car-nado may have sensational overtones, but an NDOT spokesman said the nickname helped convey the significance of major freeway ramp closures until the end of February.

As a result, motorists had time to plan new routes and avoid the closures at Interstate 15’s southbound and northbound ramps connecting to northbound U.S. Highway 95, along with the I-15 ramps to Martin Luther King Boulevard.

“If we were to say that this was just another road closure, it wouldn’t have really registered with people the way it did,” NDOT spokesman Tony Illia said.

The Car-nado moniker developed from a team of architects, contractors and Transportation Department officials representatives working on Project Neon, the $1.9 billion widening of the Spaghetti Bowl interchange set for completion in 2019.

In the months leading up to the closures, some the suggestions tossed around included Ramp-nado, Fix-a-palooza, Ramp-enstein and Repair-a-palooza.

But something about Car-nado just sounded better.

At least, to some.

“I don’t know why, in the transportation world, we have to create messages around disasters when this is probably the most positive project we’ve done in Southern Nevada in a long time,” said Tom Skancke, an NDOT board member.

Two more major, yet-to-be-named closures are planned in the next couple of years as part of Project Neon.

It’s unclear whether NDOT will conjure up another nickname for several lane restrictions planned for U.S. Highway 95 in 2017.

“We’ll probably take a look at lessons learned when Car-nado wraps up and re-evaluate how we should handle the next closure,” Illia said.

Contact Art Marroquin at amarroquin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @AMarroquin_LV on Twitter.

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