NDOT Improvements to I-15

NDOT has recently completed yet another phase of improvements on I-15, improving function and design

By Julia Edinger

The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) has recently unveiled yet another transportation project that was recently completed to improve accessibility as Nevada’s population grows.

The Starr Avenue Interchange project is part of a complex $1.2 billion project intending to improve Interstate 15 between Tropicana Avenue and Sloan.

The whole project began in 2007, with many developments since then. A notable development was the completion of Project Neon, the largest public works project the state of Nevada has undertaken. NDOT’s committed team members have been working on various aspects of improvement to the interstate since 2007, but this Starr Interchange phase alone has been in the works since the NDOT team broke ground in 2017.

The Starr Avenue Interchange project is part of a complex $1.2 billion project intending to improve Interstate 15.

Only two years later, the team unveiled the completed project on time and under budget. The project features major changes like the raising of the I-15 freeway over Starr Avenue and constructing a new interchange; minor changes included landscaping, traffic signaling features, and a design that could be adaptable for further growth in the future.

“The department, with the Starr Avenue Interchange, has invested $411 million into the corridor thus far,” explained Tony Illia, Spokesperson for NDOT.

For increasing mobility and including design details that make it more than simply a road, but rather a connection in a larger project, the I-15/Starr Avenue Interchange is American Infrastructure Magazine’s Road Project of the Year.

Purpose and Planning

The project was intended to provide new and improved freeway access and improve the transportation safety in the rapidly growing Las Vegas region.

“The project constructed a tight urban diamond interchange using a single-span cast-in-place box girder bridge over Starr Avenue,” Illia detailed. “The structure, measuring 200-feet-long by 196-feet-wide, is post-tensioned using 86 miles of steel wire, making it one of the longest and widest bridges of its kind in Nevada.”

The Nevada Department of Transportation team completed the project on time and under budget on September 18, 2019.

The project’s design was developed in house by NDOT with the support of Horrocks Engineers. Public input played a large role in the final design plan, from residents and local businesses to Clark County and the City of Henderson. This helped with designing a plan that would address the needs of all the people that would be impacted.

Problem Solving

For a project that would impact multiple locations and the traffic flow of a region, there are certainly challenges in making the project match the intention.

“Utility relocation, traffic coordination, and public outreach were the project’s biggest challenges,” Illia explained. “As a result, planning and communication played crucial roles in realizing the project’s success.”

Regular meetings with all parties involved, open communication with the public and with stakeholders, and addressing concerns early were all factors in solving problems early and keeping the project on schedule.

Drought-tolerant landscaping maximizes the space of the median in a sustainable way.

Public concerns included the noise that the new interchange might bring and the potential that new retaining walls would obstruct views for existing neighborhoods. To address the noise, the department implemented the use of open-graded asphalt to keep road surface noise minimal. To address the views being obstructed, retaining walls were ultimately eliminated from the design.

Difference in the Detail

One thing that the team is particularly proud of is that this interchange will provide a convenient route, where previously, motorists may have had to drive a mile or more out of their way to get to their destination.

The NDOT team also worked to make this project as sustainable as possible. Another design detail is the use of drought-tolerant landscaping to maximize the space of the median. Additionally, LED lighting was added to increase energy efficiency. The use of fly-ash in the ready mix and reusing base materials on site furthered the sustainability effort.

Some other updates that would include mobility, not just for motorists but also for pedestrians and bicyclists, included new sidewalks, crosswalks, and bicycle lanes.

One of the most noticeable features to the general public may be the architectural metal cacti that decorate the interchange. These add an interesting benefit for the public, and allowed this construction project to have a touch of art and aesthetic appeal. The Las Vegas Review-Journal even made the connection between Nevada’s infrastructure and public art in a recent article.

Architectural metal cacti decorate the interchange to create an intersection of art and infrastructure for the public.

While I-15 still has improvements to be made, the Las Vegas community can now move more freely about the region. With relief from traffic congestion, improved safety, and a timely project completion, NDOT can celebrate the success of this project before moving on to the next one.

Illia attributed the success of the project to the team’s contribution: “The team’s expertise, dedication, and hard work helped realize the successful and timely completion of an entirely new interchange along I-15 that will serve the fast- growing southern part of the Las Vegas valley.”

Julia Edinger is the Editor for American Infrastructure Magazine. She can be reached at julia@builder.media.

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