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Chris Jones

Solutions Offered for Woes on I-15

15 September 2004

Buoyed by recent and proposed improvements along the Interstate 15 corridor, local tourism leaders are exploring new ways to ease ground-based travelers headed to and from Southern Nevada, including expanded rail service, repositioned inspection stations and a ban that would keep large trucks from clogging highway fast lanes.

Approximately 55 percent of last year's 35.5 million visitors traveled to Las Vegas by car, bus or recreational vehicle, including an estimated 10.6 million who came from Southern California by way of I-15.

Such numbers underscore the importance of smooth-moving roadways to the local economy, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said during Tuesday's board meeting of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

"Whatever has to be done, has to be done," Goodman said of easing roadway congestion. "The competition really is coming from the California Indian reservations and I don't want to give people the excuse not to come up here."

Lobbyist Tom Skancke, who routinely addresses the convention authority on traffic-related issues, emphasized that much has been done to improve the vital roadways in and out of Las Vegas. But there's still much more to accomplish, he added.

Skancke on Tuesday outlined several items on his California roadway wish list, but a more-immediate benefit could come from Carson City when the Nevada Legislature reconvenes next year. At Goodman's request, Skancke will work with convention authority legal counsel Luke Puschnig to draft a bill that would make it illegal for large trucks to remain in the center, or "passing lanes," while traveling on Nevada highways.

Goodman has repeatedly argued such driving practices slow smaller automobiles and pose a hazard to nearby vehicles. California already bans trucks from traveling in the center lane, excluding passing situations, but Skancke said that law is seldom enforced.

Local municipalities should draft truck restriction bills and present their ideas to state leaders next year, Skancke said.

Empowered by a $384,000, one-year contract extension approved Tuesday, Skancke's work on behalf of the convention authority should soon greatly expand.

Though he'll continue to push for highway projects in Southern California, Skancke will also work with government leaders in improving I-15 between Cheyenne Avenue in North Las Vegas to the outlying resort community of Mesquite; monitor bridge construction and expansion of U.S. Highway 95 between Nevada and Arizona; and push for a high-speed, magnetic train linking Las Vegas and Anaheim, Calif., as part of the new deal.

Skancke said the biggest transportation challenge for local tourism is securing the money needed to keep up with growth in Nevada and Southern California. That challenge is compounded when competing for federal transportation money against East Coast states that wield great influence in Washington.

Should funding become available, a key project for Southern Nevada tourism is the planned $50 million to $100 million modernization of the I-15/Interstate 215 interchange near Devore, Calif. That roadway moves from six lanes to two, creating a bottleneck that slows traffic in both directions.

"That's a top priority because everything passes through there," Skancke said.

Other important roadway improvements include the addition of one northbound lane on I-15 between Victorville and Barstow; the relocation of an agricultural inspection station from Yermo, Calif., to the California-Nevada border; and the relocation of an I-15 truck weigh station that often slows northbound drivers near Devore, Calif.