“What is the Nevada Department of Transportation doing to keep up with the phenomenal growth in Nevada?”
As Nevada continues to grow, “business as usual” is probably the approach least used in either the public or private sector. The Silver State continues to transform itself, especially the urban centers of Las Vegas and Reno.
That is also true for the Nevada Department of Transportation. Escalating costs for materials and rights-of-way make it prudent to create needed transportation projects sooner rather than later. It is why we have sold bonds to build eight major transportation projects in Southern Nevada and seven in Northern Nevada. From new freeways to capacity projects, to rehabilitation of older roads, the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars totals much more than the amount that comes to the department from its revenue sources on an annual basis.
NDOT has found there is a large economic benefit from selling bonds. It is a strategy that allows the traveling public to see results much sooner. Other benefits include avoiding the cost of inflation and realizing the savings from current low interest rates. Additional related benefits include reduced fuel consumption, air quality improvements and the creation of construction and secondary jobs.
NDOT is in the midst of the largest highway construction program in its history: widening US 95 in northwest Las Vegas; the I-215/515 interchange in Henderson; widening St. Rose Parkway; the I-15/Lamb Boulevard interchange; widening US 95 south of Railroad Pass; widening I-15 at the Union Pacific railroad spur crossing; building the Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation (FAST) traffic management center, resurfacing and restriping Rancho Drive; and building the Hoover Dam bypass. These projects have been accelerated by taking advantage of some of the lowest interest rates ever for bonds. All this freeway work is done while maintaining high levels of traffic movement.
In addition, NDOT has started the planning and design process for projects to improve State Route 160 (Blue Diamond Road) from I-15 to Rainbow Boulevard, widen I-15 northbound from Primm to Las Vegas, eliminate the at-grade railroad crossing on Craig Road in North Las Vegas and widen I-15 from the Spaghetti Bowl to Craig Road.
To identify future transportation projects besides the I-515 corridor, NDOT is currently studying other corridors on US 95 from Craig Road to Kyle Canyon Road, I-15 from Sahara Avenue to the Spaghetti Bowl (Project Neon) and I-15 from Tropicana Avenue to the Sloan Road interchange.
NDOT also is working to allow local governments to implement transportation projects on freeways. These projects include the I-515/Auto Mall Drive interchange in Henderson, an overpass at Elkhorn Road and US 95 and the I-15/Silverado Ranch Boulevard interchange.
Nevada state and local transportation agencies are performing better than our peers across the nation. We have done so while protecting the environment and ensuring that air quality meets federally mandated health standards. Even with all of the state’s growth, a national report recently noted that Nevada has the fourth most cost-effective state highway program in the country.
Internally, NDOT is also working to be a more focused agency. Four main goals have been set:
Improve safety in public transportation
Develop and deliver beneficial projects in a timely manner
Effectively communicate to improve customer satisfaction
Make the most of the department’s assets and minimize its risks
The next step is to begin identifying action plans associated with the strategies and goals. These action plans will include responsibilities for individual employees throughout the department.
Along with these broad department strategies and objectives, solid accomplishments have taken place during the past two years that should be mentioned. NDOT now has its first comprehensive landscape and aesthetics plan as part of its effort to be more environmentally friendly and to create highway projects that are more visually appealing. Landscape and aesthetics master-planning can enhance environmental health by accommodating wildlife, reducing erosion and runoff and protecting native plant communities.
The department is continuing its commitment to innovation and research in a broad range of subjects, from pavement and roadway construction to vegetation used in landscaping, as well as projects involving erosion control, the use of steel girders for bridges, and advances in seismic retrofit of structures and traffic management software.
This is not only a challenging time for transportation in Nevada, but an exciting time as well. As director of NDOT, I can say without hesitation that we are committed to building and maintaining one of the safest and most efficient transportation systems in the nation.