The $520-million U.S. Highway 95 widening in northwest Las Vegas is designed to accommodate 302,600 vehicles a day.

Transportation officials – seven years and a lawsuit later – this week celebrated completion of a $520-million U.S. Highway 95 widening in northwest Las Vegas. The 9-mile-long project added four travel lanes between Martin Luther King and Rainbow boulevards; another two lanes from Rainbow Boulevard to Craig Road; and created a high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lane in each direction. There are also seven new over and underpasses, plus 13 miles of soundwalls, storm drainage and redesigned connector ramps that weave lanes of traffic. The improved 10-lane roadway is designed to accommodate 302,600 vehicles a day or about 34% more than its current traffic flow.

U.S. 95 is one of Nevada's most congested stretches of highway with nearly 12,000 vehicles traveling less than half the speed allowed during peak commuting hours, says Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters. Even a slight vehicle speed increase would save more than $8.5-million per year in delay expenses, she adds.

The seven-year widening reconfigured the Summerlin Parkway/Rainbow Boulevard interchange at U.S. Highway 95.

The project, originally budgeted at $370-million, suffered a one-year setback and 28.8% price increase when the Sierra Club filed a 2002 lawsuit over cancer risks to nearby residents. The environmental group cited a new study linking exhaust emissions with increased cancer cases. The suit, which came two years into construction, secured a construction injunction from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on July 28, 2004. Both sides reached a June 2005 out-of-court settlement that added $4 million to the project budget for air filters and monitoring equipment as well as retrofits for cleaner running school busses.

Raw material and labor prices also increased during the lawsuit hiatus, further ratcheting the project's total tab, and a 39-year-old elementary school along the right-a-way route needed relocation at cost of $14-million. The 62,500 sq.-ft. replacement school at 6350 Hyde Ave., 1/8-mile from its former site, opened on Jan. 6, 2003.

Related Links:
  • http://www.us95.net
  • U.S. 95, meanwhile, entailed 10 major construction contracts, including a $94.8-million segment that ranks as Nevada's single largest road job to date. Las Vegas Paving Corp. completed the $94.8-million, two-mile widening and realignment between Valley View and Rainbow Boulevards in late November. The local firm additionally finished a $9.6-million portion between Cheyenne Avenue and Craig Road in June 2002. Other project contractors included Meadow Valley Contractors Inc., Phoenix; MMC Inc., North Las Vegas; Crystal Cascades Civil LLC, North Las Vegas; and Frehner Construction Co., a unit of Aggregate Industries U.S., Rockville, Md.

    The state utilized several different consulting engineers for everything from right-away procurement and design to environmental mitigation and public outreach. Project participants include Parsons Transportation Group, Washington, D.C.; PBS&J, Orlando, Fla.; Louis Berger Group Inc., Morristown, N.J.; Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas Inc., Norfolk, Va.; Svedrup Civil Inc., a unit of Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., Pasadena, Calif.; and VTN Consulting, Las Vegas.

    Yet the project, which began planning in 1995, could fall short of 2020 traffic growth projections expected to reach 450,000 vehicles a day. A U.S. 95 widening between Washington Avenue and Craig Road is designed but unfunded. The Nevada Dept. of Transportation currently faces a $3.8-billion funding shortfall from 2008 through 2015 due to diminished gas and sales tax receipts. A gubernatorial panel is now exploring alternative funding options.

    "Our state's tremendous growth has presented challenges in creating safe and efficient highways and roads," says Gov. Jim Gibbons (R), state transportation board chair. "Hopefully, we're going to avoid the 12 years it took to get this built in the future."