Pointless I-15 delay

For weekend visitors driving back to Southern California from Las Vegas, and for Southern Nevadans making the jaunt southwest for a little rest and relaxation, a much-needed improvement to your route finally appears to be coming.

Later this month, California will open bids for a new Joint Port of Entry alongside Interstate 15, just south of Primm. As reported Saturday by the Review-Journal’s Tim O’Reiley, the $34 million first phase will house a weigh station for commercial trucks. More importantly for tourism, however, the second phase includes a new agricultural inspection station.

Right now, nothing bugs I-15 travelers more than what’s known as the “bug station” — so named because inspectors are checking for insects as the first line of defense for California’s agricultural industry. The existing 50-year-old station straddles the southbound lanes near Yermo, 140 miles southwest of Las Vegas, often backing up traffic for several miles, particularly on Sundays or after major holidays. The resulting delays mean less time for visitors to enjoy their destination. That’s bad business for California and Nevada.

The California Department of Transportation hopes to have the funding to take bids next year for the long-planned $25 million bug station, with at least seven inspection lanes opening in 2015 or 2016. That would be a big improvement over the four bays at the Yermo roadblock.

If California wants to expedite the process, here’s a better idea: Tear down the Yermo station and call it good. For heaven’s sake, sometimes the station has no inspectors, causing travelers to stop before they figure out no one is around to ask about the bananas in their backpacks. Plenty of savvy I-15 travelers know the station can by bypassed by exiting just north of Yermo. Besides, California closed nearly a dozen bug stations a decade ago with no effect on desert crops.

Absent such a common-sense step, a new, more efficient station certainly would help traffic flow on I-15. While we don’t want to see taxpayers fleeced, no matter where they live, this project would make the trip south much easier for millions of California tourists, and much faster for Southern Nevadans seeking a change of scenery.

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