Motorists will be able to get from Henderson to the Hoover Dam a little more quickly by late July, when a 15-mile segment of Interstate 11 opens three months ahead of schedule, transportation officials said Monday.
As the newest addition to the federal interstate system since 1992, I-11 signals the start of a freeway project that’s expected to someday serve as a major trade route linking the United States, Canada and Mexico.
For now, the new four-lane highway — known as the Boulder City Bypass — is expected to reduce travel times by up to 30 minutes by the time traffic starts flowing between Henderson’s southern border and O’Callaghan-Tillman Bridge downstream from Hoover Dam.
“While we obviously have some ways to go to completely build out I-11, everything starts with a first step,” said Tony Illia, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Transportation.
“I think it’s exciting for the residents of Boulder City because heavy-duty trucks and other motorists have an option to drive right past and save a lot of time on the freeway,” Illia said. “And of course, the city is still open to tourists who want to shop or eat in the downtown area.”
The $318 million freeway segment, funded by federal and state money along with Clark County’s fuel indexing tax, started construction in April 2015 with work split between NDOT and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.
Officials with the RTC had planned to open its 12½-mile asphalt section of the freeway in October, but agency officials said the contractor was “efficient in managing the project.”
Even though the freeway will be open to traffic by late July, RTC General Manager Tina Quigley said that construction crews will still have to work on some finishing touches such as road striping and landscaping.
“This is a significant project as I-11 will ultimately connect Las Vegas and Phoenix — the only two cities in the nation with (metro area) populations of more than one million not linked by an interstate,” Quigley said. “This interstate will help relieve congestion, improve safety and enhance trade and commerce between Nevada and Arizona.”
NDOT has incrementally opened its 2½-mile concrete section of I-11 since August in hopes of getting motorists acclimated to the new route between the U.S. Highway 95 interchange and Railroad Pass Casino.
Work was supposed to wrap up last month, but “equipment issues” have forced construction crews to continue painting stripes along the road and add some other finishing touches through the end of May, Illia said.
The flurry of orange cones and detours has confused some drivers passing through the new freeway segment, including NDOT Director Rudy Malfabon during a recent drive to Laughlin.
“I noticed a lot of cones and I got a little confused and I got embarrassed,” Malfabon said Monday during the NDOT board meeting, drawing a few chuckles. “I still get a little confused driving through there.”
New travel center opens on I-11 route
A 8,500-square-foot travel center equipped with a convenience store, Chevron gas station and a Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop opened Monday just south of the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino, according to the project’s owners.
Travel Center at the Railroad Pass was built on a 24-acre parcel, with seven diesel semi-truck gas stations, a dozen charging stations for electric vehicles, a truck scale, a large parking lot and a 2,000 gallon propane dispensing tank.
In a prepared statement, Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino owner Joseph DeSimone, Jr. said the 24-acre parcel was a “prime location” to accommodate motorists by the time I-11 opens in late July.