Boulder City Nevada bypass tollroad enabling legislation advances
By Peter Samuel
Nevada state senator Joe Hardy (Repub) seems to be successfully advancing enabling legislation to allow a request for proposals (RFP) for private sector funding of a Boulder City Bypass tollroad. The bypass would provide 2x2 lanes of expressway around the southside of Boulder City for US93 the major route between the Las Vegas metro area (Clark Co 1.95m people) and Phoenix AZ (Maricopa Co 3.82m pop).
At present up to an average 40,000 vehicles/day travel the mostly 2x2 lanes surface arterial through the middle of Boulder City (pop 15k) with several traffic signals impeding movement. Since the 1990s plans for the expressway have been batted around with detailed studies starting 2002.
2005 saw completion of a Final Environmental Impact Statement and selection of a 15 mile, 24km route sweeping south of the City. But there has been no funding from tax monies. They did find tax money to build a $240m Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, a spectacular 2+2 lane concrete arch bridge that opened to traffic last October.
Boulder City nearby hosts many of the activities deriving from the iconic dam including recreation around Lake Mead above, and the Colorado River and canyon below.
Coming northwest from Phoenix AZ traffic would cross the new bridge from Arizona into Nevada and then immediately have the choice of traveling - as now - the old US93 and several signals through the middle of Boulder City, or swinging by the south on a new higher speed Boulder City Bypass tollroad.
State senator Joe Hardy told us in a telephone interview Friday he sees his bill SB214 facing a clear run through the state house and likely to get the Governor's signature. He says there is strong support for the bypass road itself, but "a few people" against tolls.
However most voters recognize it is tolls or no bypass road, he says, because the tax funding just isn't there.
Viable with tolls?
It is not clear however that Bypass tolls can generate sufficient funding either. A 2007 traffic and revenue study said not.
Senator Hardy told us the traffic and revenue studies need to be redone to take account of the major improvements from the recently opened Colorado River Bridge, and the increased traffic this has encouraged.
The Bypass does have problems as a toll project:
- at 15 miles, 24km it is over a third longer than the old US93 through town at 11 miles, 18km
- it has no intermediate interchange, so serves no local traffic
- old US93 is oftentimes likely to be competitive for through traffic, suggesting the Bypass tollroad will be in the nature of an occasional relief road in times of congestion in-town
- cost is about $400m
COMMENT: this is a nice to have bit of road. But it looks to us as being financially too much road for too little traffic - too big a bypass for too little a city. Hopefully they will be flexible about how and when it's built and look for supplements to tolls. Building a single 2-lane roadway first up could save a good chunk of capital, and attracting traffic with a truck stop franchise would supplement tolls. A mid-way interchange or two would enhance the value of the Bypass giving it some belt route characteristics and add some local trips to its traffic. Otherwise this is going to require heavy subsidization with state and local tax monies, it seems to us.
But there's no harm, and everything to gain, by going to the RFP and asking for proposals. The key will be flexibility about what gets built and when - editor.
beautiful pictures of new bridge in LA Times Magazine, and the fools don't even collect a toll there: