Many McCarran International Airport-area commuters can expect a big change in their daily travels starting Wednesday morning, when a realigned Russell Road opens east of the airport.
The switch, which is expected to take place between tonight’s rush hour and the Wednesday morning commute, will move Russell roughly between Spencer Street and Paradise Road to a corridor a quarter-mile north of its present location, where Fraya Road used to be.
"It’s something people will figure out fairly quickly, but we don’t want them to be surprised," said Chris Jones, an airport spokesman.
"A lot of people that come through this area are people who work in this area. They’re not necessarily surprised," Jones said. "There are also a lot of people who don’t come to the airport very often. We want people to plan ahead" for the change.
Also closed with the old Russell will be Maryland Parkway and Tamarus Street between old Russell and Fraya, which is the new Russell; Escondido Street south of Fraya; and Gold Dust Avenue between Maryland and Eastern Avenue.
For drivers taking northbound Paradise from the Airport Connector Tunnel to turn onto eastbound Russell, the switch will involve passing the intersection with old Russell — which will remain an access road to the airport’s economy parking lot — and proceeding to the new Russell north of there.
"We want people to realize that a little bit of old Russell will still be there, but it will only access the economy parking lot," Jones said. "If people are unfamiliar with what’s going on, they’ll hit a dead end" off the access road.
"The last thing we want is somebody to go on autopilot and make a turn onto the old Russell," unless they are headed to economy parking, Jones said.
Commuters heading to facilities on the airport’s east side — including the McCarran day care center, a University Medical Center branch, the Gate Gourmet food service center — will need to turn onto a southbound access road off of old Russell at Surrey Street between Spencer and Eastern to reach those places.
Signs along the access road will direct traffic from Russell to those locations.
In recent days, electronic message boards along Russell also have been alerting drivers to the changes, Jones said.
The $61.6 million road relocation, which began in 2006, is to allow for construction of McCarran’s new $1.8 billion Terminal Three, which is going to sit atop the vacated portion of old Russell.
"The front door of Terminal Three is essentially where Russell as it now stands meets Maryland," Jones said.
The new terminal — which will have its own gates, check-in, baggage claim and parking — is expected to open in 2011.
The Russell shift was entirely paid for by airport revenues collected through ticket surcharges and other airport-based revenue sources.
"Local taxpayers didn’t pay for that, unless they went through the airport," Jones said.