Las Vegans are conditioned to see road construction as a bad thing. Orange barrels usually mean lane reductions and closures, which can turn traffic chokepoints into parking lots.
But the valley’s latest major interchange project should bring more smiles than scowls. As reported by the Review-Journal’s Richard Velotta, federal, state and local officials broke ground Thursday on the third phase of what’s expected to be known as the Centennial Bowl: direct-connection ramps that will speed traffic through the intersection of U.S. Highway 95 and the Las Vegas Beltway in northwest Las Vegas.
The $46.7 million project is expected to create minimal traffic disruptions — mostly lane shifts and reduced speeds — because workers are building entirely new infrastructure, not improving existing roads. Whatever pain is inflicted by this project should pale in comparison with the soul-crushing hardships that accompanied previous U.S. 95 projects.
The interchange, currently a muddle of stop signs and surface streets that provide access to shopping centers, should at some point become part of the planned Interstate 11 connecting Las Vegas and Phoenix to the Canadian and Mexican borders. The upgrades, needed to handle population growth and increased commercial traffic, are more hard proof that Southern Nevada is putting the Great Recession in the rearview mirror.