CARSON CITY — Nevada lawmakers charged with approving the state’s budget heard arguments Monday for a $170 million appropriation for upgrades between the Interstate 15-U.S. 95 “Spaghetti Bowl” and Craig Road in Las Vegas.
The money already is part of Gov. Jim Gibbons’ proposed $7 billion budget. The Nevada Department of Transportation usually relies on fees, gas taxes and federal funds for highway improvements.
Kent Cooper, assistant director for planning at NDOT, told the Assembly Ways and Means Committee that the project could start as early as June if all goes well. The construction will widen sections of highway between the interchange and Craig Road.
Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, asked if some of the funding could be used to finish a section of state Route 160 between Pahrump and Las Vegas where many accidents have been reported. But Cooper said the planning for that project is not far enough along.
State Route 160 “is very prominent and we’re keeping a close eye on it, but I don’t believe we are ready to go forward with a project at this stage of the game,” Cooper told Buckley. He added later that “even if you gave me the money today, I couldn’t spend it today.”
Cooper said most of the safety problems on the road have been corrected and that the reports he’s seen have shown a decrease in accidents. Those recent numbers were not immediately available.
However, a study of accidents on the road between 1999 and 2003 showed more in the old westbound section of road than the new, eastbound section. There were 150 crashes in the westbound lane between the Mountain Springs Summit and a few miles before Pahrump. Of those, 69 caused injuries, and 10 caused a fatality. In the eastbound lane, there were only 39 crashes, 12 involving injuries and none that caused a death.2007