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Nation’s newest freeway, 15-mile stretch of I-11, ready to roll
A carved section of the Eldorado Mountains gave way to a picturesque view of Lake Mead from the scenic overlook on Interstate 11, where transportation officials and local politicians gathered Thursday to open the nation’s newest freeway.
With the initial 15-mile stretch of highway completed, officials took a moment to look farther down the road into the future of I-11 as a potential link to Phoenix and, perhaps, grow into an international trade route that will someday connect with Mexico and Canada.
“You’ve heard that Interstate 11 will someday meet with the border of Mexico and the border of Canada, but you today are part of where it all began right here in Boulder City,” Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown told about 500 people gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
A bighorn sheep perched nearby as the news conference took on a celebratory tone. The spectacle kicked off when the Vegas Golden Knights’ Drum-Bots thundered past the stage. Confetti cannons sprayed attendees as Boulder City High School’s cheerleaders and marching band performed.
Traffic started rolling along northbound I-11 just before noon Thursday, led by a pair of Nevada Highway Patrol cruisers and four work trucks from Las Vegas Paving. Southbound lanes were expected to open by 3 p.m.
“I think we can all say that all roads lead to Boulder City, and here’s a perfect example of this,” Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, said during the news conference.
“The purpose of this is to create good-paying jobs … but the second thing, as important is to create commerce and economic growth,” Heller said. “We want this growth to continue, and it can’t continue without great infrastructure projects like this.”
Construction of I-11 started in April 2015, dramatically transforming the physical landscape of Boulder City’s outlying desert.
Controlled dynamite blasts burrowed a new path through the Eldorado Mountains to make way for I-11’s path toward the Colorado River. A touch of Art Deco designs adorn 10 concrete bridges along the route. Metal figures and a 1,200-foot-long retaining wall depict the construction of the nearby Hoover Dam.
“I really love the aesthetics and how it all fits with the lay of the land here,” said Rudy Malfabon, director of the Nevada Department of Transportation. “These are amazing rock cuts, and everything really compliments the environment and the history of this area.”
The $318 million freeway segment was funded by federal and state money along with Clark County’s fuel revenue indexing tax, with work split between NDOT and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.
Discerning motorists will be able to distinguish the two segments, which were built simultaneously. NDOT’s 2 ½-mile segment of I-11, closest to Las Vegas, was paved with concrete as a way to save money on long-term maintenance costs. Asphalt, which costs less, covers the remaining 12.5 miles headed to Hoover Dam, RTC officials said.
NDOT officials said the four-lane highway is expected to reduce travel times between Henderson’s southern border and the Hoover Dam by up to 30 minutes while looping past Boulder City.
“I think anything that gives you an option to improve efficiency, spend less time on the road and burn less fuel is a good thing,” said Paul Enos, CEO of the Nevada Trucking Association.
“I think this will relieve a lot of the concerns that have been going on for years now about an increase in truck traffic going through Boulder City,” Enos said. “If it’s ever built to be a full north-south corridor, then I think it will ultimately be a good thing for commerce in the United States.”
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