Brace yourself: Delays and backups due to Project Neon work are coming

When the Nevada Department of Transportation conducts a public meeting for an upcoming project, you’ll usually see maybe a couple of dozen people who live in the neighborhood show up to find out how the project is going to affect their regular commute.

That certainly wasn’t the case Thursday as at least 100 were on hand to hear the latest on Project Neon, the big Spaghetti Bowl redesign that will be under construction through 2019.

Thursday’s session provided some details about how things are going to be in the first year, and it seems the people who attended the meeting just wanted to get a glimpse of how painful this is going to be.

So take a deep breath.

Ready?

Between now and November the traffic impact is going to be minimal.

But come November, watch out. It’s going to get really icky for commuters who take the big flyover route from northbound Interstate 15 to northbound U.S. Highway 95. That’s because the two-lane flyover bridge is going to be closed between November and January. More on that later.

Those who will be most affected by Project Neon through January will be yours truly, my Las Vegas Review-Journal colleagues and all our neighbors along Bonanza Road and Martin Luther King Boulevard. If you pass through the Spaghetti Bowl in your commute through the rest of the year, you can look down at the RJ offices as you drive and chortle (although some of you already do that anyway).

The mainline freeway lanes of I-15 and U.S. 95 will be unaffected — although as all of us know, rush hour at the Spaghetti Bowl is no picnic, and even if things stay the same, they’re still bad.

So here’s why things won’t be too bad until November: Many of the big fixes of Project Neon will be the result of new construction occurring off established roads. All that right-of-way where buildings have been acquired and torn down will become construction zones so the traffic impact will be minimal.

A few details:

■ Now through July, engineers will be completing their final designs and additional demolitions will occur in the area immediately west of the existing Martin Luther King Boulevard. That’s where the redirected MLK will go. You’ll also begin seeing some overpass construction in the area, the new exits off I-15 that will lead to Charleston Boulevard and a new MLK bridge over Charleston. NDOT is saying there will be some night closures on Charleston when that happens.

■ Leading up to September, there will be 12 gantries built along I-15 and U.S. 95 for the new active traffic management system, a more sophisticated information provider that will be better than the existing dynamic information signs on our highways.

■ Between August and November, crews will begin working in the area of Charleston and Grand Central Parkway. That three-point intersection at Charleston and Grand Central will be connected to Western Avenue. NDOT promises to maintain two lanes of traffic on Grand Central at all times to relieve some of the traffic coming out of the nearby Las Vegas North Premium Outlets stores.

■ In January, Wall Street under I-15 will be closed so those needing to access either side of the freeway would do it with the new Western connection to Charleston.

■ Attention, all you Smith Center for the Performing Arts patrons: Between August and March, work will be performed on West Bonneville and West Symphony Park avenues. New bridges are being built to accommodate those new I-15 exits. There also will be lane restrictions on MLK for curb work. While access will be maintained to all businesses in thearea, Bonneville and Symphony Park will be closed for some overnight construction work.

■ Also between August and March, drainage and road work will occur south of Oakey Boulevard between I-15 and Loch Lomond Way. There will be some temporary lane restrictions at MLK and Oakey, and all of the work will occur during daylight hours to avoid noise that would disturb the Loch Lomond neighborhood at night. There won’t be any detours through neighborhoods.

■ Here’s where the worst Project Neon closures occur. In August, a portion of the U.S. 95 exit at Rancho Drive will be modified. That means any southbound traffic exiting at Rancho won’t be able to make a left turn to go north. It’s scheduled as a 30-day closure.

■ Between September and November, the northbound ramp from MLK to U.S. 95 will be closed. NDOT is recommending that motorists detour north on Bonanza to Rancho and get on U.S. 95 there.

■ And now the really bad one: From November through January, the big flyover will be closed. It’s two lanes and traffic normally flows much faster than the recommended 40 mph. The detour that will be in place will guide traffic to use the single-lane right fork on the flyover to the MLK exit. Traffic then will be shifted to a temporary ramp onto U.S. 95 at the bottom tier of the Spaghetti Bowl maze. Think about it: a slower-moving, one-lane ramp transporting what is normally two lanes of traffic emptying through a temporary entrance onto the main line of a highway. What could possibly go wrong, other than traffic backing up on U.S. 95 and I-15 to the south?

Thankfully, it’s only temporary.

Eventually, animations of the traffic flow from southbound U.S. 95 to southbound I-15 will be available on NDOT’s website. While today there’s a big tangle where the lanes merge, the future merge point to I-15 won’t occur until past Oakey when the project is done and there will be exit points to Charleston and Sahara that will ease the flow.

The end result will be worth it. But until then …

Questions and comments should be sent to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number. Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter @RJroadwarrior.still bad.

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