When Nevada Department of Transportation engineers finished designing the Warm Springs Road bridge and prepared for construction, they realized they had a problem.
The span across Interstate 15 wouldn’t be able to withstand the weight of a military tank.
This is critical because if a war were to break out between Paradise and Spring Valley, tanks would obviously be deployed and Warm Springs Road is one of the few straight shots between the communities.
So the Department of Transportation had to redesign the bridge. They had to send back the steel girders they had pre-ordered and place an order for new ones that would be sturdy enough hold a tank. During all this confusion, the state lost its place in line at the Utah steel mill. We think Washington swooped in and occupied the mill for its own bridge project, delaying ours.
So that, in a nutshell, is why crews, who expected to have the new six-lane bridge open at the beginning of the year, just last week started working on it. It will open in May as a narrow temporary span, one lane in each direction.
Oh, back to the tanks. That truly is the federal standard for a bridge, it should carry a tank, which typically weighs about 130,000 pounds. A big-rig with a double trailer weighs 129,000 pounds, and that is what the requirements boil down to.
Corey Newcome, a project manager at Las Vegas Paving, the general contractor on the project, said although there are plenty of other bridges across Interstate 15, it’s important that the Warm Springs span is up to standards.
“It’s a new bridge so it shouldn’t have any restrictions,” he said.
The Warm Springs bridge had linked rural neighborhoods to the west with a business district to the east, and the loss of it has been a point of aggravation for southwest residents for months. Newcome said the company would never have demolished it had it foreseen the design flaws and subsequent delays.
When the bridge was taken down in 2010, a few nearby residents and I pondered the reason the span was built four decades ago. There couldn’t have been much out there. Even 15 years ago if you drove to Warm Springs, you might as well have been driving to California.
The unfortunate part of the tale is that development sprouted up and the bridge became an integral part of the community. Then it was gone.
Compounding the frustration for those who relied on the bridge was the transportation department’s celebration of the Mesquite bridge slide project in January. The new Interstate 15 overpass across Falcon Ridge Parkway was slid into place overnight, disrupting traffic for only a few hours.
Why couldn’t that technology be implemented with the Warm Springs Road bridge? Good question. First, those bridges only work at major interchanges where there is plenty of space to build the new bridge adjacent to the old one and then lift it into place. Second, on the Mesquite project, Falcon Ridge had to be closed down for a few days. It is simply not feasible to close Interstate 15 for any amount of time. Simply widening the existing bridge also was not an option. The old span was built in the 1960s and did not meet today’s height standards of 16 feet, 5 inches.
“That bridge was built a long time ago,” Nevada Department of Transportation engineer Jason Voight said. “There is evidence of it being hit a couple of times.”
Litigation issues also have contributed to the project’s woes. Nevada Power must move transmission towers, and that has required the company to acquire private property. The property owner and Nevada Power are still squabbling over the value of the land needed.
All that said, the progress of the bridge is impressive. Crews started erecting the girders Monday night and were thrown off schedule by high winds at the beginning of the week. The structure already extends over the southbound lanes.
Some good news is coming out of all of this. The Department of Transportation wasn’t scheduled to widen Warm Springs Road until 2020. Now the six-lane road will stretch from Las Vegas Boulevard on the east to Dean Martin Drive on the west.
If you have a question, tip or tirade, call Adrienne Packer at 702-387-2904, or send an email to roadwarrior
@reviewjournal.com. Include your phone number.
■ Through 6 p.m. today and from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Thursday, Dean Martin Drive will be closed in both directions between Post Road and Oquendo Road as work is done on the Union Pacific Railroad.
■ Through Friday, expect delays on Falcon Ridge Parkway at Interstate 15 in Mesquite as traffic is diverted from the west side of the road to the east. Crews installed new bridges on I-15 and are widening Falcon Ridge Parkway.
■ Through mid-April, the Alexander Road overpass across U.S. Highway 95 will be closed for repaving. Use Cheyenne Avenue, Craig or Lone Mountain roads as alternatives.
The average price of gasoline in the Las Vegas Valley on Friday was $3.94 per gallon; the state average was $3.97; the national average was $3.90.
Las Vegas Review-Journal