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Nevada DOT Interchange Project Underway Along I-15 Corridor

by: Mark Bird
A Caterpillar wheel loader is shown on the I-15/CC-215 Northern Beltway Interchange Project in North Las Vegas.
A Caterpillar wheel loader is shown on the I-15/CC-215 Northern Beltway Interchange Project in North Las Vegas.
Like its world-famous neighboring city, North Las Vegas continues to see robust physical and economic growth. Much more than a suburb, North Las Vegas is in fact its own city, and indeed the fourth largest city in the state of Nevada. Home to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which draws hundreds of thousands of people annually to NHRA and NASCAR events, the North Las Vegas area also attracts large numbers of visitors with its variety of outdoor recreational offerings.

North Las Vegas has seen a population growth of over 22 percent since the 2010 census. This dramatic growth has of course brought a major increase in traffic, especially along the Interstate 15 corridor, where thousands of new homes are planned or under construction. It also serves as a major Interstate 15 access route for the Speedway Industrial Park.

To meet the growing traffic needs and to help spur further economic development in North Las Vegas, the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) is completing multiple I-15 corridor improvements. A major current endeavor is the I-15/CC-215 Northern Beltway Interchange Project – a system-to-system interchange configuration where the northern I-15 meets the Clark County 215 Las Vegas Beltway. Construction started in mid-2020 and is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Major components of the I-15/CC-215 Northern Beltway Interchange Project include:

  • Construction of new direct connect ramps between the I-15 and Clark County 215 interchange
  • Building I-15 southbound ramps and reconstructing I-15 northbound ramps for the I-15 and Tropical Parkway interchange
  • Reconfiguring local streets to improve traffic flow around the interchange
  • Landscape and aesthetic enhancements

The project also includes the addition of I-15 southbound ramps for the Tropical Parkway interchange. The Tropical Parkway interchange will use the existing I-15 northbound ramps as modified to work in concert with new flyover ramps for the I-15/CC-215 interchange. The project will construct sections of Centennial Parkway and Tropical Parkway to provide needed connections.

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Nathan Enos, NDOT’s Resident Engineer for the project, provides an overview of the corridor’s significance. “The area that this route passes through is primarily an industrial area,” he says. “The I-15/CC-215/Tropical Parkway interchange serves as the main access point for several Amazon fulfillment centers and other logistics buildings, a Nevada National Guard Armory and several construction and building industry facilities. It also serves as a pipeline for access to Nellis Air Force Base.

“In the time the project has been under construction, several additional warehouses and businesses have been constructed in the immediate area, with more under construction. These businesses contribute a steady stream of commercial traffic, including box trucks and concrete trucks, as well as very busy passenger vehicle traffic during shift change hours. The I-15 corridor is also a very busy commercial trucking corridor for trucking passing through the Las Vegas valley.”

Traffic counts through the busy interchange are expected to grow by up to 72 percent in the next two decades, according to NDOT. Enos comments, “The 2020 average traffic count for this section of I-15 is 37,000 vehicles per day. Averages of 2,400 to 3,700 vehicles per day use each of the existing ramps for access to business in the area. Historical data shows steady increases in these values in the last five years and those increases are expected to continue going forward.”

Fisher Sand & Gravel is the general contractor for the project. As Enos reports, Atkins provided consultant design engineering services. Lage Design was responsible for landscape design and architecture, and PK Electrical provided lighting design engineering. Horrocks Engineers provided subcontracted bridge engineering. Ninyo and Moore provided geotechnical exploration and reporting. During construction, Diversified Consulting Services (DCS), CEEC Inc., and Kleinfelder have provided inspection and testing services to augment NDOT field personnel.

Final construction costs are estimated to be approximately $105 million. In addition, Preliminary Engineering Expenses are approximately $10.8 million, and Right of Way Expenses are approximately $7.3 million.

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This is a federally funded project – 95 percent of the funding is being provided by the federal government, with the remainder being funded by a combination of State transportation funds, Clark County property tax funds, and City of North Las Vegas funds.

Multi-Phase Project Will Provide Multiple Benefits
In reflecting on the scope of the project, Enos highlights multiple benefits that route users will experience:

Improved Safety
“Movements through the area prior to improvements were via a mix of signalized and unsignalized intersections. This project will convert all major traffic movements to either free flowing – such as the I-15 northbound to CC215 westbound flyover ramp – or signalized intersections. This reduces the number of conflict points for traffic incidents to occur. Enhanced lighting, new barrier rail, improved drainage, and new signage all contribute to the improved safety of the interchange.”

Reduced Travel Times
“By providing free flow routes to all the movements between I-15 and CC215, as well as improved on- and off-ramps from I-15 to Tropical Parkway, traffic will be able to travel through the interchange area at a higher speed and with fewer stops at intersections.”

Better Access to Future North Las Vegas Developments
“After construction, motorists will have direct access to the growing industrial area between I-15 and Las Vegas Boulevard from all points in the valley. Improved on- and off-ramps from I-15 to Tropical will also serve as a major access point for commercial trucking coming from outside the valley from the north and south.”

Increased Capacity
“I-15 will remain three travel lanes in each direction through the project footprint, but auxiliary and dedicated exit lanes will allow these to flow more freely. CC-215 will be improved from two to three lanes in each direction.

Pavement Condition Addressed
“Existing freeway and surface street sections will be repaved throughout the project footprint.”

The project was designed to be completed in four phases (with two components of the second phase). Phase 1 included the relocation of utilities, temporary paving for traffic diversion, construction of all structure foundations, spread footings for bridge abutments and drilled shaft foundations for columns and piers.

During Phase 2A, the 215 eastbound to I-15 northbound flyover was constructed, using a combination of earth fill and falsework for support. The I-15 southbound to 215 westbound structure was constructed on earth fill, as were 215 eastbound and westbound grade separations on earth fill at Centennial Parkway.

In Phase 2B, the I-15 northbound to 215 westbound flyover was constructed on a combination of falsework and earth fill, and the 215 eastbound grade separation structure at the Union Pacific Railroad was constructed on falsework. Additionally, the I-15 southbound off-ramp at Tropical Parkway was constructed, Tropical Parkway was pave-realigned, and a temporary paved diversion was created.

Phase 3 includes completion of earthwork between flyovers, Centennial Parkway grade separations, and mainline I-215; pavement widening on I-215 and associated ramps and on the Tropical Parkway on-ramp to I-15 are also included in this phase.

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Phase 4 will include landscaping, open grade paving, barrier rail, signals and lighting.

Beyond the flow enhancements the completed project will provide, a particularly noteworthy aspect will be the carefully designed landscaping features – striking new freeway aesthetics made up of boulders and decorative rock, accented by colorful polygonal roadside sculptures that convey the characteristics of water and its impact upon shaping both the natural and built environments.

“This interchange will be the northern gateway interchange into the valley,” Enos relates. “The landscaping, with its mix of vibrant colored panels and decorative structures, will evoke the forms and motifs of the desert. The landscape elements enliven the various structures of the interchange and add visual interest to the large open spaces between the ramps and roadways.”

Project is a Result of Extensive Planning Process
The process that resulted in this interchange project stretches across two decades, relates NDOT’s Christine Chia, the Project Manager. “NDOT, in cooperation with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC), the City of Las Vegas, the City of North Las Vegas and Clark County undertook the I-15 Northeast Corridor Study in 2000 to develop a multi-jurisdictional plan for transportation improvements to meet the long-term needs of the northeast region of Las Vegas served by the I-15 freeway.  The study was completed in 2002 and recommended a transportation strategy including added lanes on I-15, arterial and collector street improvements, enhanced transit and transportation demand management.

“The Department subsequently added the recommended interstate lane additions to the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). In addition to the improvements to I-15, local jurisdictions added approximately 50 arterial and collector street improvements to the RTP, and enhanced transit and transportation demand management were incorporated into local plans.

“In 2004, the Department initiated preliminary engineering and alternative studies to identify the freeway configuration consistent with demand in the I-15 corridor while minimizing adverse social, economic, and environmental impacts.”

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While construction has proceeded smoothly since beginning in 2020, the project has seen its share of the challenges that all such large-scale road projects must address. Says Enos, “Obviously the pandemic presented challenges. Construction began in the early days of COVID-19. There was uncertainty about social distancing and sanitization in outdoor construction areas. Procurement was and continues to be an issue.

“The tight geography of the interchange presents issues of where to put traffic while roadways are constructed. In many areas the new roadways share the same alignment but a different grade than the current configuration. Traffic must be diverted from these areas for construction.”

New Interchange Will Spur Corridor Area Growth
The I-15/CC-215 Northern Beltway Interchange Project will impact much more than the intersection itself. Businesses in the Speedway Industrial Park will benefit from improved access, as will the area’s busy VA Hospital. A new job creation zone adjacent to the hospital is also expected to attract additional resources in research, technology, and development.

As Enos comments, “Construction of the interchange shows NDOT’s commitment to mobility in the North East valley and the I-15 corridor. This interchange will improve access to the area and promote business growth and relieve congestion on surface streets.”

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