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Mayors’ wish list: Widen I-15 between Barstow and Primm

Updated July 9, 2017 - 11:50 pm

A little teaming and scheming is brewing between Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The mayoral duo recently met to discuss an array of mutual topics, including a desire to widen the two-lane stretch of Interstate 15 between Barstow and Primm — a feat Goodman and her predecessors have long sought as a way to reduce traffic congestion for Southern Californians driving to Las Vegas.

In order to get those federal and state dollars to pay for such a costly project, Goodman said the conversation needs to shift away from tourism and focus more on interstate trade.

“They don’t care about moving tourists from California to Las Vegas, but they do care about moving cargo trucks and produce through here and to the rest of the country,” said Goodman, who met with Garcetti during the U.S. Conference of Mayors gathering held two weeks ago in Miami Beach, Florida.

“Getting this done is going to be like trying to get a major league team to come here,” Goodman said. “Look at how long that’s taken.”

Of the 42.9 million visitors to Las Vegas in 2016, about 27 percent came from Southern California — the majority of whom drove along Interstate 15, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The gridlock is compounded by big rigs delivering electronics, clothes and other goods shipped through Southern California’s ports in Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego on to the rest of the country.

Congestion on I-15 in eastern California

The average travel time between San Bernardino and Las Vegas is 3.5 hours, while the southbound trip can last up to 7 hours on Sunday afternoons due to bottlenecks near Primm and Barstow, according to an updated master plan released earlier this year by the California Department of Transportation, known as Caltrans.

The Caltrans report also noted that the cost of congestion on the entire stretch of I-15 equates to $6.2 billion annually, with more than half attributed to choke points between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

And yet, widening I-15 between Barstow and Primm isn’t on the agency’s list of planned projects into the near future.

“Mayor Garcetti is open to new ideas for growing America’s economy and creating more good-paying jobs in Los Angeles,” Garcetti spokesman Alex Comisar said of the “exploratory discussion” last month with Goodman.

Of course, mayors don’t have the authority to decide whether to add a traffic lane in each direction of a major freeway, particularly the lengthy 113-mile section of I-15 running from Barstow to Primm.

Goodman said she is enlisting help from Rudy Malfabon, director of the Nevada Department of Transportation. Malfabon said he had previously discussed the topic with Caltrans and confirmed that the agency doesn’t have any immediate plans to widen I-15.

But Goodman said she is determined to get the ball rolling before she leaves office.

“Eric has my cell number, and I have his,” Goodman said. “It’s an exciting time, and I know he really gets it.”

Freeway artwork

Interstate 11 is quickly coming into place near Boulder City, including impressive pieces of artwork that illustrate scenes from the construction of Hoover Dam.

Lorraine from Las Vegas called the work “fantastic” and wanted to know who chose the design.

The Nevada Department of Transportation held several public meetings to solicit suggestions for the freeway artistry.

Design Workshop, an international architecture firm, incorporated the feedback into a 28-foot-tall “visual centerpiece” of multicolored graphics and steel figures spanning a 1,200-foot-long concrete retaining wall, NDOT spokesman Tony Illia said. The wall is coated with a special anti-graffiti film to deter vandals.

“It reflects the region’s social, cultural and economic history, while acting as an iconic graphic gateway into Boulder City,” Illia said.

Wider road

Mary from Henderson wanted to know whether city officials plan to widen Green Valley Parkway near Horizon Ridge Parkway, because of the constant traffic jams in the area.

There are no improvement projects currently planned for this intersection, Henderson city spokeswoman Kim Becker said,

“Any widening of the roadway here would require purchasing private property at a premium,” Becker said. “It doesn’t seem to be a likely scenario since all corners are fully developed.”

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

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