ST. GEORGE — A 20-mile backup on southbound Interstate 15 at the Nevada-California border that occurred over the Thanksgiving weekend has prompted a fix meant to relieve traffic congestion and be ready in time for next year’s holiday season.
The temporary fix was announced by the governors of California and Nevada on Dec. 5, and will involve the widening of a 5-mile stretch of I-15 just south of the Nevada border.
The exact location is between Primm, Nevada at the Nevada border and the California Department of Food and Agriculture Agricultural Station. This is where three travel lanes in Nevada drop to two lanes and trigger the backup until it opens up to three lanes again to pass the agricultural station.
The situation is somewhat similar to how the two lanes of travel on I-15 through Arizona temporarily merge to one lane while passing through the construction zone for the Bridge no. 1 project and can cause backups there, albeit on a smaller scale when compared to the issue at the Nevada-California border.
The stretch of highway between the Nevada border and the agricultural station is federally recognized as an economic lifeline corridor due to its role in the supply chain, and for connecting the economic and tourism hubs of Southern California and Las Vegas.
“This five-mile stretch of highway is a critical piece of infrastructure for not only our two states but for the whole country. However, the hours of traffic deters tourism and goods movement,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press release.
The temporary solution will see the shoulder along the interstate converted into a third travel lane during periods of peak congestion – primarily Sundays and Mondays.
Average travel times on Sundays and Mondays in the southbound direction can range from three to five hours to travel the 113 miles between the Nevada state line and Barstow, California.
The project is estimated to cost $12 million and will be completed with existing California State Highway Account resources. It is expected to begin by mid-Spring 2022, with completion anticipated by the end of summer 2022.
According to News 3 Las Vegas, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak called Newsom asking California to finally start doing something about the congestion issue. He said Nevada had done its part to widen I-15 on their side years ago, and now Sisolak was asking California to step up.
“I got a call a few weeks ago from Governor Sisolak who said we can’t take it anymore. California needs to step up,” Newsom told reporters during a Dec. 5 press conference with I-15 in the background, just south of the Nevada state line.
“While this is just a temporary solution, the expansion is crucial for continued economic health and resilience in the region and beyond,” Newsom said. “I thank Governor Sisolak for his continued focus and partnership on this and other shared priorities for Californians and Nevadans.”
Sisolak, who was also present at the press conference, said he appreciated Newsom and California’s willingness to work together on the issue.
“Annually, more than 11 million Las Vegas visitors drive in and out of town on I-15 and this is a major step forward while we continue to collaborate and work toward more permanent solutions,” Sisolak said.
I-15 overall runs 1,470 miles from the Montana-Canadian border in the north and ends in California at San Diego. Along the way, it connects to Interstates 90, 84, 80, and 70. According to a 2017 I-15 Corridor System Master Plan, up to $95 billion of commerce is transported on I-15 annually from local communities to the global marketplace.
As far as other ways to avoid traffic congestion between Nevada and California in the future are concerned, a high-speed rail system project is being pushed forward by Brightline, a company that runs commuter trains in Florida.
The project, known as Brightline West, would run 260 miles between Victorville, California and Las Vegas.
According to KTNV, both Newsom and Sisolak mentioned the project during their Dec. 5 press conference. Newsom said the project, which is a private venture, had seen delays due to the pandemic. Despite that, Sisolak said the project was making progress.
Brightline has not yet released a projected completion date for the project.
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