In countless old movies I have seen, strong winds changing the direction of a weather vane are a clue that something momentous is about to happen.
So it seemed appropriate that the winds of change were blowing Monday morning as politicians, key community leaders and construction crews gathered just outside the city limits to officially begin construction of Interstate 11.
More commonly called the Boulder City bypass, the interstate was hailed as a crucial step in making the nation’s economy better and providing a vital link for transporting goods across the country.
It is the first part of the east-west interstate that will connect Las Vegas to Phoenix, the only cities in the country with populations greater than 1 million people that are not linked by an interstate.
Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison praised the project, saying it will replace the “white knuckle ride” he remembers from his childhood going to visit family and traveling to Phoenix from Nevada.
It also will play an integral role in establishing a corridor from Mexico to Canada, said Clark County Commissioner Mary Beth Scow.
For Boulder City residents, the bypass will significantly reduce traffic congestion, especially when it bottlenecks near Railroad Pass, the Buchanan Boulevard Interchange and coming across Hoover Dam. It also will eliminate the need for semitrailers to pass through town.
The traffic problems were at the heart of problem for Mayor Roger Tobler, who said he called the Regional Transportation Commission to seek a solution.
“It will help reduce delays and accidents and improve the efficiency of the bridge,” he told the crowd.
The bypass was such an important project for the city that it donated 640 acres of land so it can be built.
That, however, “doesn’t mean we don’t want you to come to Boulder City,” Tobler said, inviting everyone to experience the town’s shops, restaurants and hospitality.
Naturally, as a bypass, many are concerned about the interstate’s overall effect on the city’s health.
For the near future, the $318 million project is expected to create about 4,000 jobs, specifically for Southern Nevadans who were hurt by the recent economic crisis, a topic that was touched upon by several of the speakers.
Additionally, steps are being taken to ensure that the city continues to prosper once construction is complete.
Larry Brown, RTC chairman, compared construction of the bypass to building Hoover Dam or the O’Callaghan-Tillman Memorial Bridge.
“Today is a historic day for transportation in Southern Nevada — after all, it is not every day a new interstate breaks ground,” he said.
I was glad to be there to witness history in the making — and be a part of it. Though once construction is completed, no one will ever be able to tell, my signature joins those from dignitaries that cover a dozen box culverts that will be used to build the interstate.
The winds of change are blowing. Perhaps they are just a portent of the millions of travelers that will be able to whiz by once the interstate is completed.