F Street in Las Vegas set to reopen in 2014
F Street, a short street connecting the historic west side of Las Vegas with downtown that closed in 2009 when the Spaghetti Bowl freeway interchange and Interstate 15 were upgraded, will reopen in late 2014 under a timeline reviewed today by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.
Jenica Finnerty, assistant chief project manager for the Nevada Transportation Department, gave an update on plans to reopen F Street, a project that will close lanes on I-15 at the state’s busiest freeway interchange for three months and cost taxpayers $11.5 million to $13.5 million.
Finnerty said the construction of three bridges and landscaping on the street level would leave F Street “even better than it was before.”
NDOT will advertise to bid the project in January and start construction by spring. Construction is expected to be completed by late 2014, according to the timeline reviewed by the RTC.
The effort to close F Street began in 2004 when NDOT finalized plans to widen I-15 between the Spaghetti Bowl and Craig Road. Although there were numerous public meetings, the community around F Street was outraged by the plan and a racially charged controversy brewed through the end of 2005 and early 2006 when city officials formally approved closing the street.
At many of the public meetings, the closure of F Street never came up.
The street closed for the project and West Las Vegas residents protested. The perception was that city fathers were mistreating black residents of the neighborhood by cutting off access to the as-yet-unopened Smith Center for the Performing Arts and a rejuvenated downtown.
Leading the charge to reopen F Street was Rep.-elect Steven Horsford, then the state Senate majority leader. Lawmakers approved legislation ordering the reopening of F Street and even allocated a portion of the funds to do it.
To complete the reopening, NDOT will have to build three bridges over F Street just north of the Spaghetti Bowl for northbound and southbound I-15 and for the southbound ramp accessing U.S. 95. Finnerty said northbound traffic would have to be diverted to the southbound lane and vice-versa for about three months while the bridges are built.
The project will be completed in seven phases. Once the street is completed, it will intersect with City Parkway near Bonanza Road.
Finnerty said NDOT normally allocates about 3 percent of a contract for aesthetic purposes but for the F Street project it would be “slightly more” and include signage on the bridge calling attention to “Historic Westside” with columns that pay tribute to the historic Moulin Rouge casino. The walls along the underpass will have tiled and anti-graffiti-coated murals depicting life in Las Vegas’ west side.
Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, a Clark County commissioner, said the aesthetic touches are important and showcase how much Las Vegas residents have improved their racial relations.
Commissioner Lois Tarkanian, a member of the Las Vegas City Council, added that she liked the added landscaping touches, but still wanted a full accounting of how much is being spent for the project and aesthetics.
Earlier this year, the Las Vegas City Council approved $8.5 million in general obligation bonds to fund the project, and state legislators in 2011 authorized $6.5 million through a fuel tax.