Updated November 2, 2020 - 7:10 am
For the first time since the effects of the pandemic began to be felt in Southern Nevada, traffic volume on some portions of the region’s freeways has increased over 2019 rates.
Data from the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada shows traffic volume on Interstate 15 at the Nevada-California border is up 8 percent through the third week of October. This marks the first monthly year-over-year increase on the stretch since the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts were felt.
In fact, the road leading Southern Californians to and from Las Vegas saw its busiest day since Labor Day last weekend.
“I-15 SB volume at Primm on Sunday, Oct. 25, was 36,500, which is the highest outbound volume since Labor Day weekend,” said David Swallow, RTC deputy CEO. “Max hourly volume occurred between 11 a.m. and noon, with 3,400 vehicles per hour.”
As a result of the increased traffic, travelers have seen significant delays on I-15 southbound heading back after weekend visits to Las Vegas.
For instance, on Oct. 25, traffic delays on I-15 near the border began at 11:45 a.m. and peaked at 3 p.m., when a 72-minute delay was reported. Traffic returned to normal levels at 7, Swallow said.
“The cause was a high volume and the lane drop from three to two lanes at Primm,” Swallow said.
No crashes were reported on I-15 southbound in Nevada during that time.
Additional 10- to 15-minute delays from Primm through the agricultural checkpoint and up the grade to Mountain Pass were also experienced by motorists heading to Southern California on Oct. 25.
Those headed down the El Cajon Pass in California had an average 30-minute delay between 2:30 and 8 p.m., with delays disappearing by 10.
“The maximum delay between Las Vegas and Southern California (Rancho Cucamonga) was just over two hours at 2:45 p.m.,” Swallow said.
Travelers can expect similar delays at the Nevada-California border now that all Las Vegas Strip resorts have reopened — following the reopening of The Cromwell last week — after being shuttered in mid-March.
Traffic volume on I-15 near the Arizona border en route to Utah saw a 6 percent jump through the the first three weeks of the month, up from the 3 percent dip seen in September.
Since March, vehicle miles traveled in the Las Vegas Valley bottomed out the week of April 5 at 45 percent below 2019 levels. Last week saw the highest volume since the week of July 5, with 91 percent of miles traveled compared with the same week last year.
Since running at significantly decreased ranges between March and May, traffic volume has been steadily increasing toward normal levels and has been running steady for the past several months.
“We’ve generally been holding steady in the 85-90 percent range compared to last year’s volumes since mid-June, with the noted week (third week of October) being at 90 percent of the same week in 2019,” Swallow said.
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