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Native Nevada artist pays homage to Las Vegas with McCarran mosaic

The next time you’re flying back to McCarran International Airport, take a look down at the remodeled terrazzo floor in the baggage claim area of Terminal 1.

The dazzling, iconic skylines of Las Vegas — past and present — are embedded within a colorful mosaic that resembles a giant poker chip about 40 feet in diameter. The new artwork, completed Aug. 29, was designed by Randy Heil, a native Nevadan who was paralyzed below the shoulders after a car accident 31 years ago.

“I always had a fascination with the architecture of Las Vegas,” said Heil, a 50-year-old illustrator now living in Phoenix.

“I made sure to include a lot of hidden gems,” Heil said. “I think people are going to get a kick out of it.”

Heil was driving south on U.S. Route 93 from his hometown of Elko in September 1985, on his way to register for classes at UNLV. After a stint playing football at Idaho State University, Heil wanted to bring his skills back home to warmer climates.

“I froze my butt off in Idaho, so I thought I would give it a shot at UNLV while taking some art classes,” Heil said.

During the long drive to UNLV, Heil fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his car several miles south of Alamo. He was diagnosed as a quadriplegic shortly afterward.

Heil attended a vocational rehabilitation program that helps disabled people re-enter the workforce. Heil said he wanted to study fine arts, but was told it was “an unrealistic goal.” He compromised by settling for graphic design so that he could receive financial assistance to attend classes at Arizona State University.

When creating his artwork, Heil places a pencil in his mouth and draws on an oversized sketchbook attached to an easel. The illustrations are scanned into a computer operated by a mouth-stick, allowing him to smooth the rough edges and perfect the final product.

Heil said he spent about a week designing the poker chip mosaic at McCarran International, which was commissioned by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Half the artwork features modern-day images of Las Vegas, including Luxor’s pyramid, the Eiffel Tower from the Paris hotel-casino, The Mirage’s fiery volcano and the High Roller observation wheel.

The other side represents “vintage Vegas,” including the Sands, Landmark, Dunes and Plaza hotels.

Then there’s the Desert Inn, where a shadowy figure peers out a window on the top floor. The tiny man is a nod to reclusive tycoon and aviator Howard Hughes, who lived at the hotel for nine years.

Additional “easter eggs” hidden in the mosaic include a mushroom-shaped cloud to represent atomic testing in Nevada’s deserts, while another features daredevil Evel Knievel’s failed attempt to jump the fountains at Caesars Palace on Dec. 31, 1967.

“I was worried sick that they would cut out Howard Hughes, because that’s my favorite part of the illustration,” Heil said. “There are a few other gems I hid in there, but I’m going to let you figure them out.”

SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS HEADACHE

Ken lives in the Southern Highlands area, and wanted to know how the Nevada Department of Transportation will deal with severe traffic jams that have occurred ever since the Cactus Avenue exit opened along Interstate 15 in August 2014.

Expect more construction in your neighborhood, Ken.

By late spring 2017, crews will start building a new interchange at Starr Avenue and I-15, about a mile south of the exit at Cactus, NDOT spokesman Tony Illia said. The interchange will dip below the freeway — rather than travel over it — as a way to reduce noise.

“The interchange will provide new access for Southern Highlands residents as well as neighborhoods east of Las Vegas Boulevard,” Illia said.

The 18-month project, expected to cost between $40 million and $52 million, also calls for connecting Starr Avenue between Las Vegas Boulevard and Dean Martin Drive, building a freeway bridge over Starr and a new sound wall to block noise. A new set of sidewalks, crosswalks, bicycle lanes, traffic signals, landscaping, drainage improvements and lighting are included in the project.

BELTWAY BRIDGE

A new freeway bridge is under construction along the 215 Beltway, near the Fifth Street exit in North Las Vegas, and Jerry said he wants to know where it goes.

The new interchange under construction will lead to southbound Revere Street, which will be extended to the Beltway, Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin said. The north end will lead to future development.

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

ROAD WORK AHEAD

■ Lake Mead Boulevard is restricted between Anasazi and Buffalo drives until Oct. 21. Crews are completing a landscaping project.

■ Canyon Run Drive is restricted between Town Center Drive and Rampart Boulevard until Oct. 21. Crews are completing a landscaping project.

■ Bruce Street will be closed between Ann Road and El Campo Grande Avenue in North Las Vegas until Oct. 31. Crews are upgrading storm drains.

■ Moonlight Drive will be closed between Lake Mead Boulevard and Judson Avenue from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays until Friday. Crews are completing sewer work.

■ Buffalo Drive will be restricted between Sky Pointe and Grand Teton Drive from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through Saturday as crews improve pedestrian crossings.

■ Cimarron Road will be restricted between Sky Pointe and Grand Teton Drive from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through Saturday as crews improve pedestrian crossings.

■ Elkhorn Road will be restricted between U.S. Highway 95 and Tenaya Way from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through Saturday as crews work on road improvements.

■ Cliff Shadows Parkway and Lone Mountain Drive are restricted at the 215 Beltway through Sunday. Crews are realigning the Beltway.

Summerlin Parkway is restricted between Buffalo Drive and the 215 Beltway until Nov. 1. Crews are installing a cable rail median barrier.

■ The Martin Luther King Boulevard onramp to northbound U.S. Highway 95 will is closed through November. Crews are erecting retaining walls around the Spaghetti Bowl interchange as part of Project Neon.

■ The ramp leading from westbound Warm Springs Road to the westbound 215 Beltway will be closed from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sundays through Fridays until mid-March. Crews are working on the new flyover ramp and bridge.

■ Traffic will be redirected and reduced to one lane in each direction of U.S. Highway 95 for about a mile in Boulder City through March. Crews are building a bridge over the highway for the future Interstate 11 corridor.

■ Valley Drive is being widened between Tropical Parkway and Cheyenne Avenue in North Las Vegas, with completion expected in March.

■ Northbound U.S. Highway 95 will be reduced to one lane between Craig Road and the Beltway from 8:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. weekdays through June. Crews are working on the Centennial Bowl ramps.

■ Southbound U.S. Highway 95 will be reduced to one lane between Durango Drive and Ann Road from 8:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. weekdays through June. Crews are working on the Centennial Bowl ramps.

■ Sections of Bonneville Avenue, Charleston Boulevard, Grand Central Parkway and Martin Luther King Boulevard will have closed or disrupted lanes surrounding the Spaghetti Bowl as crews work on Project Neon through July 2018.

Gasoline prices

The average gasoline price Friday in the Las Vegas Valley was $2.45 per gallon. It was $2.50 in Nevada. The national average of $2.26 is up 4 cents from a week ago, up 8 cents from a month ago and down 3 cents from a year ago.

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