Start of bypass construction nears

A representative from the Nevada Department of Transportation told the City Council that construction will begin on the Boulder City bypass as soon as a mitigation plan for naturally occurring asbestos is completed.

“We hope that is finalized within the next couple of weeks,” said NDOT representative Ryan Wheeler. “Once that is finalized, major construction activities will begin.”

Wheeler said the transportation department, which oversees the 2.5-mile portion closest to Henderson, will post asbestos information on its website as soon as its mitigation plan is completed. Fisher Sand & Gravel was awarded NDOT’s portion of the project Feb. 10 for $83 million, but has only been able to put up turtle fencing and a barrier rail along U.S. Highway 95 near Railroad Pass.

“We’re in the infancy stage, so you see a little bit of activity,” Wheeler said.

The Regional Transportation Commission, which oversees the remaining 12.5 mile portion of the project, has already posted asbestos information on its website for the public to see.

According to RTC spokeswoman Monika Bertaki, blasting for Phase 2 is expected to begin within the next few weeks.

The Boulder City bypass, the first phase of the planned Interstate 11 that will eventually connect Las Vegas to Phoenix, is expected to be completed by late 2017 or early 2018, Wheeler said.

The $318 million project is expected to create more than 4,000 jobs, according to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and is expected to relieve major congestion along U.S. Highway 93.

Bridges, including a pedestrian bridge, a bike bridge and a scenic vista viewing area, will eventually be erected as part of NDOT’s portion of the project. As commuters drive along the interstate, Wheeler said they’ll be able to see the completion of Hoover Dam through wall art.

“I think that Boulder City is ready for a little bit more mobility, and I know that this project will bring that,” he said.

Mayor Rod Woodbury said it’s important to keep the public involved as much as possible while the project is under construction.

“It’s really critical that we keep the citizens updated on this,” he said. “Along with the release of the congestion, there’s a lot of apprehension about this project … naturally.”

City Councilman Cam Walker stressed the importance of transparency between NDOT and the RTC when it came to posting information about the naturally occurring asbestos.

The issue first arose at the end of 2013 when two UNLV professors discovered naturally occurring asbestos around Boulder City, prompting both agencies to run hundreds of tests to determine the asbestos’ concentration in the area. The project was delayed by several months as the tests were conducted, but NDOT and the RTC shared their results during a town hall meeting in September where they announced that naturally occurring asbestos was not a threat to the project.

Daily dust samples will be tested throughout the project’s duration to determine the asbestos’ severity.

“We want those to be regularly updated regardless of the information, good or bad, so there’s not a hiccup,” Walker said.

Contact reporter Steven Slivka at sslivka@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow @StevenSlivka on Twitter.

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