Experts: Less than half of motorists would use toll road around Boulder City

Courtesy NDOT

This artist’s rendering shows what the redesigned interchange of the Boulder City Bypass and U.S. 93 would look like at Railroad Pass. The Railroad Pass Casino is to the left. If U.S. 93 is designated an interstate between Las Vegas and Phoenix, the bypass route would become part of the interstate, officials say.

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This Nevada Department of Transportation graphic shows the route of the proposed Boulder City Bypass. If U.S. 93 is designated an interstate between Las Vegas and Phoenix, the bypass route would become part of the interstate, officials say.

Transportation experts say a 15-mile toll-road bypass around Boulder City would only be used by about 44 percent of the motorists using what eventually would become a piece of the proposed Interstate 11 between Hoover Dam and Henderson.

Representatives of the Nevada Department of Transportation and the Clark County Regional Transportation Commission tried to reassure a skeptical crowd of about 50 people attending a public hearing Wednesday that a four-lane freeway bypassing Boulder City would still achieve the goal of reducing traffic on the city’s streets.

Transportation officials took testimony and answered questions during a three-hour open house and public meeting at Boulder City High School.

The estimate that 44 percent of the traffic would use the bypass is based on studies by the Las Vegas-based Louis Berger Group, which was tasked with analyzing prospective toll structures to determine what price point would guarantee maximum revenue.

The estimate was based on a toll of $2.25 per passenger vehicle. Large trucks and commercial vehicles would potentially pay more.

The study was one component of the analysis to determine whether the bypass route would become Nevada’s first toll road. The Nevada Legislature would still have to approve legislation permitting a toll and is expected to consider that in the session that begins next month.

A measure approved by lawmakers in 2011 allowed NDOT to study the tolling concept.

The 15-mile route has been proposed in two phases and would dip to the south of Boulder City near the Railroad Pass casino. The route would continue east in flat desert terrain, then veer north through the Eldorado Mountains, rejoining what is now U.S. 93 near the Hacienda casino.

Engineers envision two open-road tolling express lanes per direction for electronic toll collections and three cash and credit lanes per direction for payment by machines at toll-booth plazas that would be built south of the city.

The reason the majority of motorists aren’t expected to use the toll road is that they’d have the option of using the existing U.S. 93 route through Boulder City that would remain free.

NDOT officials said the proposed $2.25 toll could be used the first year of operation, then modified up or down, depending on whether there was a need to increase or decrease demand.

Phase 1 of the project, which would be under the jurisdiction of NDOT, is a short piece that would run from Railroad Pass to a new intersection at U.S. 95 and cost between $20 million and $30 million for right-of-way and $90 million to $110 million for construction. Some of that land, in the Jericho Heights area, currently is the subject of contentious condemnation proceedings.

The longer Phase 2 portion of the highway, where the tolling would occur, is under the RTC’s jurisdiction and would cost about $330 million to complete. It’s on public land and wouldn’t require right-of-way acquisitions.

One of the benefits of allowing tolling is that the bypass would be completed faster. Officials estimate that if tolling were allowed, the project could be completed by 2018 or 2019 with an accelerated construction schedule.

If tolling isn’t allowed, the project would go on a list of future projects with an uncertain completion timetable. Because the route is part of the recently designated I-11 corridor, it would be completed eventually.

Some Boulder City residents attending Wednesday’s meeting are still questioning whether the bypass is necessary. They fear a drop in business in town if motorists bypass them, reduced access to desert lands by horsemen and outdoor recreation enthusiasts and a detrimental impact on desert wildlife, including desert tortoise and bighorn sheep.

An environmental impact study already has been completed on the route and engineers would be required to mitigate impacts to the area based on those requirements.

Comments can be still be submitted on the bypass project by Feb. 1. They can be submitted by email to Senior Project Manager Tony Lorenzi at [email protected] or to the Nevada Department of Transportation at 1263 S. Stewart St., Carson City, 89712.

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  1. I think there should be a state law that stops conflict of interest for projects like this. One that makes it a felony to either give or accept any sort of compensation between individuals and corporations that benefit from projects like this (as well as contractors, subsidiaries, partners, shareholders, etc.) and the friends and family of legislators and push for projects like these (friends, family, etc.). Be fair and allow for a 7-10 moratorium starting once the project is complete, but keep it limitless while the project is still in motion. Let's see how quickly the endorsements and fade and the truth comes out.

    Traffic has been backed up for GENERATIONS around Hoover Dam and through Boulder City. Everyone is used to it, and no one is going to pay to drive on this toll road. Not when you've got both the already existing free route, and the fact that it is scenic as well.

    Now that the environmental study is done, how about an economic one that will show how many businesses will go bankrupt in Boulder City if a bypass is in place? Just look what happened to Route 66 when the interstate arrived. The same will happen to BC.

  2. BTW, it's also nice about how they describe how the Right Of Ways for the toll road are already taken care of. More than just the actual land that this road will sit on, who owns the parcels of Real Estate around both ends of this strip of land that will inevitably become the gas stations and fast food restaurants that will siphon money out of Boulder City?

    For YEARS NDOT couldn't be bothered to leave their ivory tower up in Carson City to improve Las Vegas' roads resulting in multiple deaths like the ones caused by Mitchell Dettloff. Residents begged for years to simply install highway dividers that were needed to save lives, and NDOT ignored us. Now they won't shut up about this toll road in Boulder City, and the harder that residents resist it the harder NDOT keeps pushing for it. Always with the excuse that it's now or never (even though I-11 will be free). What kind of shady stuff is going on that we don't know about? Why would you dump millions of dollars into a study for a project that benefits no one, unless your plan was to steal more than that from it's completion? Besides that, it's supposed to be apart of I-11 anyways, why wouldn't you do the fiscally responsible thing and wait for the free road? Again it's likely because you plan on stealing money during the process.

  3. Nice trucking bypass. Should facilitate the Mexican trucking business to markets in the US.

    I think it is going eventually isolate Boulder City more in the long run, like Route 66.

    One thing that is a consideration is way in the future. The Southwest high speed rail system. For those in a hurry, it will be more attractive to travel by rail rather than a toll freeway. There could be more economic problems related to the rise in toll fees due to loss of travelers.

    Then, there is the setting the foundations for adding tolls to other freeways in Las Vegas, and other highways north and south.

    I wonder if people will have to adjust to paying to drive their cars in more ways than gasoline in the future. The gradual privatization of everything is another costly price for citizenship in the US.

    With the passage of one generation to another, there will be easier acceptance of the changes that go almost unnoticed, except by those who have something to compare them with.

  4. Traffic isn't really that bad anymore. Only on a few days a year after the major holidays. And then the backup is only for a few hours. I don't think we need to spend billions to ease a few busy days. Remember, you don't build a church for the crowds at Christmas and Easter.... The trucks are a pain in the keester but unless you force them to take the bypass, lots of them wouldn't pay the toll.