Traffic volume around the Las Vegas Valley has slowly been getting back to pre-pandemic levels — especially along the busiest road in the area.
Combined traffic volume on three points of Interstate 15 (at Primm, Sahara Avenue and Mesquite) saw a total daily average of 370,637 vehicles in April, 3 percent above April 2019 — the last year before the pandemic reduced traffic numbers — when an average 360,345 vehicles were recorded, according to the Regional Transportation Commission.
RTC’s data shows I-15 at the California state line has been above 2019 traffic levels three out of the four full months this year, with a daily average of 38,838 vehicles in February (up 4 percent over 2019), 44,548 in March (up 2 percent) and 51,035 in April (up 10 percent).
Evidence of the return to above-normal traffic can be seen on any given Sunday when traffic on I-15 southbound backs up as much as 20 miles as Southern California visitors head home after a weekend in Las Vegas.
“I-15 in Southern Nevada remains above pre-pandemic levels,” said Kristina Swallow, director of the Nevada Department of Transportation. “It’s actually pulling Las Vegas numbers up.”
I-15 at Mesquite has been above 2019 levels all year, with a 2 percent increase seen in January, a 6 percent spike in February, a 3 percent jump in March and a 10 percent increase in April.
Swallow expects traffic volume to continue to be strong as summer approaches, COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease and more people are vaccinated around the region.
“Numbers are starting to see a more sustaining increase, but as you can see in Vegas it’s a little bit of a mix there,” Swallow said. “We anticipate we’ll start seeing more consistency as we continue to evolve out of the pandemic.”
Traffic fatalities increase
With the rise in traffic around the valley there has been an increase in traffic fatalities as well.
In Clark County, 67 people have died as result of motor vehicle crashes through April, 26 percent more than in the first four months of 2019, according to Nevada Department of Public Safety data.
Clark County is among the nine counties statewide that have seen an increase in traffic fatalities through April. Overall, the state has recorded 109 deaths, compared with 93 in the first four months of 2020.
Swallow noted that 24 deaths in the state were related to people not wearing seat belts.
“Buckle up,” Swallow said. “It is truly the single most effective thing you could do to protect yourself in a crash.”
I-15 virtual meeting
Looking to keep the valley’s busiest highway running at maximum efficiency, NDOT is conducting a virtual meeting to get the public’s opinion of what could be done to improve a stretch of I-15 from Flamingo Road to Sahara Avenue.
From May 25 through June 23, motorists can chime in on their preferred potential improvements and modifications along the 4.5-mile stretch.
The project is several years from beginning and could cost between $350 million and $750 million. Aside from environmental studies and other planning still left to be done, the funding still needs to be identified once there’s a clearer cost estimate.
During the open period, the public can ask NDOT team members questions and leave feedback at I-15FlamingoSahara.com.
“Proposed roadway and interchange upgrades are geared toward increasing capacity, improving efficiency, and enhancing safety while accommodating future growth,” said Tony Illila, NDOT spokesman. “Results from a feasibility study are expected by the end of 2021, partly based upon participant feedback, will help inform future project decisions pending available funding.”
One of the options to improve the area is widening the freeway to add capacity, Illia noted.
“Although it is still very early in the planning stages, widening the freeway and adding more travel lanes is a possibility,” he said.