Believe it or not, Interstate 11 has been under construction for almost a full year now. Sometimes called the Boulder City bypass, the initial 15-mile project is divided into two segments. Phase 1 is the 2½-mile segment between Railroad Pass and U.S. Highway 95 near the western edge of our city. Phase 2 is the longer, 12½-mile segment that will wrap around the south and east of our populated areas from U.S. 95 to a point near Hoover Dam Lodge and the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge.
Both phases are being constructed simultaneously: Phase 1 by Nevada Department of Transportation and its contractor Fisher Sand &Gravel, and Phase 2 by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada and its contractor Las Vegas Paving.
Like me, you’re probably more familiar with Phase 1 because we see its high-profile construction on our way to and from the Las Vegas Valley. However, I can assure you that Phase 2, though largely hidden from view, is progressing with equal rapidity.
In fact, I toured Phase 2 with Las Vegas Paving’s project manager Jared Wagstaff and City Public Works Director Scott Hansen last week. I was impressed by the sheer magnitude of it all. Like Fisher, Las Vegas Paving is literally moving mountains. The Caterpillar 777 haul trucks carry so much weight (up to 100 tons) that their tires have to be regularly cooled with water to avoid overheating and failing. That’s a huge concern for Las Vegas Paving since it has to shell out about $10,000 per replacement tire.
Speaking of water, Las Vegas Paving pumps treated wastewater from our sewer ponds to three large reservoirs along the 12½-mile stretch. It uses that water not only for cooling but also to minimize dust, thereby keeping our air clean and militating against the threat of naturally occurring asbestos. And notwithstanding the heavy blasting, those efforts have been successful.
Mr. Wagstaff happily reported that even with the extensive monitoring protocol and highly sensitive measuring instruments, they’ve detected only minimal traces of NOA. In fact, as he put it, they’ve found fewer single NOA fibers than desert tortoises so far. And that’s certainly good news.
As temperatures rise and winds pick up this spring, Las Vegas Paving will soon be using all 1 million gallons that our sewer ponds produce each day. And that’s also a good thing since most of that water otherwise just gets released into the desert to evaporate, creating major channel maintenance problems.
I really want to thank all of our partners for keeping impacts to a bare minimum. Although some dust is inevitable in our city whether construction is occurring or not, I have yet to feel any blasting or hear any construction-related traffic complaints.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about nonconstruction-related traffic. Over the past two weeks, afternoon traffic has regularly been backed up for miles from Railroad Pass to Veterans Memorial Drive. I first noticed it the Saturday before Easter so I initially chalked it up to typically busy weekend and holiday travel. But then I observed the same problem the following Tuesday. And last Friday was horrendous, with traffic clogged from Railroad Pass clear back to Buchanan Boulevard and down the hill toward Lake Mead.
It amazes me that some people still ask if we really need a bypass. But increasingly the most common question I get is, “How soon will I-11 be finished?” Followed in close second by, “How can we speed it up?”
I wasn’t the one who determined we needed a bypass. The citizens and city leaders decided that long before I ever became a councilman. But from my current vantage point, I sure do think it was the right choice.
Yes, I-11 will bring many challenges to our businesses and residents, but it will also bring great opportunities. And in the process it will alleviate many safety hazards and much of the congestion we currently face. I, for one, can tell you that I wasn’t about to fight traffic last Friday evening to eat out, grocery shop or visit Hemenway Park, for instance. And I can’t imagine that you were, either.
I know that most of you are every bit as anxious as I am for the 2018 project completion. So join me in praying that I-11 finishes as well as it’s begun. I really do think that I-11 is just one of many things that makes Boulder City’s future a very bright one.
Rod Woodbury is mayor of Boulder City. He has been serving on the City Council since 2011 and is the president and managing shareholder of his law firm, Woodbury Law.