LAS VEGAS — One of the busiest interchanges on the busiest freeway in Nevada is getting a three-year remake that transportation and elected officials say will ease access to Allegiant Stadium, T-Mobile Arena and the resort-lined Las Vegas Strip — but only after construction creates an even bigger traffic headache.
“Will there be some minor inconvenience for a couple of years? Absolutely, there will be,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at a May 31 ceremony marking the start of $305 million worth of work to upgrade Interstate 15 and Tropicana Avenue.
“I think the short-term sacrifice for the long-term gain is going to be something that we’re all really happy with,” the governor said. His comments were reported by the Las Vegas Sun. He called the interchange “the gateway to the entertainment and sports capital of the world.”
Buttigieg credited Nevada with taking quick advantage of a federal infrastructure funding measure passed last year. It is expected to pay $25 million toward the project.
Another $50 million comes from a federal grant awarded in 2020, and the state is expected spend $230 million, mostly derived from fuel taxes, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Buttigieg said the project will improve a road designed long before Las Vegas looked the way it does today.
The city and surrounding Clark County had fewer than 273,000 residents in 1970. Today, the region is home to almost 2.3 million people and attracts more than 40 million tourists per year.
“Modernizing this intersection is going to help more people to get to where they need to go more safely, more efficiently and more reliably,” Buttigieg said.
Interstate 15 stretches from Mexico to Canada through California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho and Montana. The interchange in Las Vegas is a key choke point on the main traffic route from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. The interstate averaged more than 370,000 vehicles a day in April 2021, according to the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.
The freeway will likely have to be shut down several times before work ends in 2025, state transportation chief Kristina Swallow told reporters, with major traffic disruptions slated to begin early next year.
The Tropicana Avenue overpass will be demolished, and a flyover ramp will be built from the southbound interstate to the east-west thoroughfare.
Built in 1966, the existing span no longer meets federal height requirements for commercial vehicles, officials said.
“It’s been hit multiple times and it’s congested,” Swallow said, pointing to what she called safety concerns created by increased use. “We’re going to be replacing the infrastructure that’s already beyond its useful service life.”
Sisolak, a Democrat running for reelection this year, said the road work is expected to create more than 4,600 jobs, with most awarded to union-contracted construction companies.
Plans call for adding freeway and carpool lanes, expanding sidewalks, realigning surface streets and drainage, and installing additional computerized traffic management signs.
A new pedestrian walkway is expected to ease access to T-Mobile Arena, home to the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights.
“This project, at the gateway of our resorts corridor, opens commerce with a free flow of traffic,” Frank Hawk, president of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, said in comments reported by the Sun. The union is contracted to work on the project.
During the project, multiple large events are set to take place at Allegiant Stadium and on the Strip, the Review-Journal noted, including Formula 1 auto races planned for November 2023 and 2024 on the Strip, and the Super Bowl in February 2024 at Allegiant Stadium.
Costs for road improvements were not factored into the cost of Allegiant Stadium, which cost nearly $1.9 billion including $750 million in public tax money.
The Nevada Department of Transportation hired a contractor in 2017 to begin studying restructuring the Tropicana Avenue interchange and building high-occupancy vehicle ramps, even before the stadium was approved and the NFL’s Raiders moved to Las Vegas from Oakland, California.
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