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Sculptures may ease construction frustrations

Did you know the primary food source for a desert tortoise is the beavertail cactus?

Interesting, eh? But how is this intriguing little fact at all pertinent to transportation?

Well, because motorists are going to see more sculptures depicting these tortoise creatures and their favorite chow as improvements to U.S. Highway 95 progress during the next couple of years. Landscaping will be an important component of the work, even distinguishing one overhauled interchange from another.

Lucy Joyce, a lands cape architect for the Nevada Department of Transportation, told residents of the northwest they will be able to describe a freeway exit to visitors not only by name, but by desert plant. For example, Lake Mead Boulevard, the interchange dotted with Joshua trees.

It’s a creative concept, but if you are visiting from, say, Tennessee, it would be wise to brush up on your desert wildlife. You wouldn’t want to be driving along trying to match your exit with the cover of your U2 album.

I wanted to lead off with the landscaping aspect of the U.S. Highway 95 project because landscaping is pretty. Road construction is not.

The first phase of the widening of U.S. Highway 95, which extends from Washington Street to beyond Ann Road, will take a year and a half. This is never welcome news, especially for the folks who since August have found themselves in bumper-to-bumper traffic after crews closed lanes to dig up the median.

This has to be especially exasperating for residents who endured the mounting congestion in the early 2000s when a lawsuit filed against the state by the Sierra Club delayed the widening of U.S. Highway 95 between Martin Luther King and Rainbow boulevards. Then the northwesterners had to deal with the construction after the lawsuit was finally settled.

Now, more road work.

Over the next year, several major arterials that intersect with U.S. Highway 95 will be closed at different times to widen bridges, build loop ramps, increase the capacity of the highway and add high-occupancy vehicle lanes.

Crews with Capriati Construction, the Las Vegas company that landed the $69 million contract, will close Alexander Road at the highway for a month during the winter.

Next spring , Gowan Road will be closed at the highway for four months because Gowan dips under the freeway and the bridge structure must be widened.

When crews wrap up the Gowan phase, Lone Mountain Road will be shut down while the highway is expanded there. That work is expected to occur next summer.

In the fall, Cheyenne Avenue at U.S. Highway 95 will be closed during weekends so workers can widen the Cheyenne bridge and add a loop ramp that will guide westbound motorists onto southbound 95 without the traffic signal that currently causes traffic jams.

A loop ramp will also be installed at Durango Drive to better handle westbound Durango traffic headed south on the freeway.

Traffic signals will be added to the Lake Mead Boulevard offramp, replacing a three-way stop that causes congestion.

Crews are also improving the interchange at Ann and Rancho roads, building new bridges that will braid the northbound exit ramp and the southbound entrance ramp.

Summerlin commuters might be pleased to hear that the transportation department is constructing a flyover high-occupancy vehicle bridge that will carry traffic from U.S. Highway 95 north onto westbound Summerlin Parkway.

In 2012, crews will build new ramps to complete the system-to-system interchange linking U.S. Highway 95 and the Las Vegas Beltway.

Northwest residents who attended a public meeting on the massive project Thursday afternoon were not displeased with the construction and the accompanying detours and inconveniences.

Some, however, wondered aloud why the transportation department can take on such a complex project when residents have been unsuccessful in getting their representatives to accomplish something as simple as signage in the area.

Although this is unrelated to the U.S. Highway 95 project, Centennial Hills residents — and visitors to the shopping district north of Ann Road — will be thrilled to hear that Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown committed to getting the public works folks to put up more signs guiding motorists to the shopping area, U.S. Highway 95 and the Las Vegas Beltway.

Anyone who has attempted to reach the shopping center from U.S. Highway 95, myself included, finds themselves lost in a maze of roads, some of them dead-ends.

To quote resident Bob Goldstein: "Go ahead, find it. I dare you."

Maybe one day the Joshua trees will lead the way.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call Adrienne Packer at 702-387-2904, or send an e-mail to roadwarrior@reviewjournal .com. Please include your phone number.

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