With six months to go until the largest and most expensive public works project in state history is slated for completion, a bevy of work still lies ahead for work crews.
Project Neon, the nearly $1 billion 4-mile-long widening of Interstate 15 from the Spaghetti Bowl Interchange to Sahara Avenue, has been affecting motorists’ commutes since it began in 2016.
The stretch of I-15 being addressed sees 300,000 vehicles travel on it daily, with 25,000 lane changes per hour. That number is expected to double by 2035, the Nevada Department of Transportation said.
Several closures, including full closures of both I-15 and U.S. Highway 95, have occurred as a result of the project and over 1 million man hours have been put in on the project to date.
Once it is completed, Project Neon is expected to reduce travel delays by 28 percent, resulting in a savings of $110 million through increased productivity, officials said.
Derek Stevens, one of the owners of The D, the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center and the planned Circa Hotel, is excited about what the finished project will bring to the area.
“Thank you Project Neon,” Stevens said in a tweet last week. “Huge impact when done later this year.”
Sitting at 92 percent finished ahead of the planned July 17 completion, here’s what’s been done and what lies ahead for the massive road project.
What’s been done
With the three major phases of Project Neon in the book — Car-nado, the Big Squeeze and the Main Event — the majority of work is complete.
Most of the bridge work has been done, with 24 old bridges demolished and 27 out of 29 planned new bridges already constructed.
Of the 42 planned active traffic management (ATM) signs slated to go up along stretches of I-15 and U.S. 95, 35 have been erected. ATM signs are dynamic, full color messaging signs that span all lanes of traffic and provide information on possible crashes, lane closures, roadwork or other traffic-related issues ahead.
Three new freeway access points were completed as part of the Main Event, including the Pinto Lane on-ramp to I-15 southbound; I-15 southbound off-ramp to Charleston Boulevard; and the U.S. 95 to I-15 southbound off-ramp to Sahara Avenue.
Ten freeway ramps have also been upgraded, including the U.S. 95 northbound and U.S. 95 southbound ramps to I-15 southbound; I-15 northbound to U.S. 95 northbound; and the U.S. 95 to Martin Luther King Boulevard off-ramp among others.
Additionally, Alta Drive and Bonneville Avenue downtown were widened, and Wellness Way was connected to both Western Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard.
What’s opening this weekend
A trio of freeway ramps at Martin Luther King Boulevard were scheduled to open Sunday morning.
The Martin Luther King Boulevard on-ramp to I-15 northbound, the MLK Boulevard on-ramp to I-15 southbound and MLK Boulevard on-ramp to U.S. 95 southbound, were all slated to open Sunday in conjunction with the opening of the U.S. 95 southbound to I-15 northbound ramp, which has been closed to traffic since August 2017.
All traffic heading toward the freeway from Martin Luther King Boulevard will now enter at the entrance near Ashley Furniture. The former on-ramp loop to I-15 southbound is no longer in existence.
“Martin Luther King Boulevard’s major overhaul will create a feeder-like roadway paralleling I-15 for improved performance and accessibility,” said NDOT spokesperson Tony Illia.
With the good news comes the bad, as the U.S. 95 southbound off-ramp to Martin Luther King Boulevard will shut to traffic Feb. 3 for 100 days.
The closure is needed to redo the ramp, as plans call for it to be widened to include three full right turn lanes and two full left turn lanes to add capacity to the exit ramp.
A detour will lead motorists to exit U.S. 95 southbound at Rancho Road where they’ll take a right and then an immediate right on Bonanza Road. From there they’ll take Bonanza Road for less than 2 miles, where they’ll reach Martin Luther King Boulevard.
What’s left to complete
Just two of the 29 new bridges associated with Project Neon remain, including the centerpiece of Project Neon, an 81-foot-tall, 2,600-foot-long high occupancy vehicle flyover bridge. Slated for completion in March, the bridge’s construction led to multiple overnight closures of I-15 and U.S. 95.
Once complete, there will be 22 consecutive miles of HOV lanes between I-15 and U.S. 95.
“The HOV lanes will allow carpoolers and rapid transit downtown access with the Neon Gateway HOV interchange between Oakey Avenue and Charleston Boulevard,” Illia said. “The gateway will connect a redesigned Grand Central Parkway for easier downtown access.”
Once Western Avenue is back open Jan. 25, crews will be working to finish the Neon Gateway. Work that remains includes grading, paving, signals, lighting and landscape. The Neon Gateway won’t open until the HOV flyover is ready to go, so that it opens as one cohesive HOV system. That is expected to occur in late April.
A new HOV configuration will occur with the project’s completion, leading to one lane being dedicated to HOV and the other being a general purpose lane. It still remains to be determined if the HOV lane will be restricted to vehicles with two or more people just during heavy traffic hours of the day.
The other remaining bridge will go over the railroad tracks connecting Industrial Road to Grand Central Parkway.
In mid-February the Charleston Boulevard freeway ramps by the Las Vegas North Premium Outlets will close for 45 days. The Charleston Boulevard on-ramp to I-15 northbound will include a slip ramp, a ramp between parallel sets of carriageways, to Alta Drive/Bonneville Avenue.
Charleston Boulevard is also in the midst of a 100-day lane reduction to widen a stretch from Shadow Lane to I-15. The project, which reduced traffic to lanes in each direction, will also create a slip ramp to Martin Luther King Boulevard. The project is slated for completion in March.
Seven more of the ATM signs are slated to go up between now and the end of the project, which will stretch much farther than Project Neon’s scope, going as far south as Silverado Ranch Boulevard. Overnight closures of I-15 should be expected with each installation.
Once ATM sign installations are complete in February, Project Neon-related overnight closures on I-15 will end until the summer. After Project Neon work is finished in the summer, NDOT will need to close portions of the freeway to place asphalt overlay on the road to make the ride smoother.
The process is temperature dependent, as it requires temperatures of 80 degrees and above to carry out.