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Goodman urges California to widen I-15; Caltrans says not so fast

Updated November 1, 2021 - 10:27 am

After an end to any busy weekend in the Las Vegas Valley, you can almost count on two things happening: a miles-long traffic backup on Interstate 15 southbound, and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman tweeting about it.

With the interstate going from three lanes on the Nevada side to two on the California side, traffic can back up more than 20 miles on some busy holiday weekends.

Last week’s EDC music festival drew hundreds of thousands of people, with many driving in from Southern California. The backup on Monday, after the festival ended, got up to at least 15 miles long, according to Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada traffic alerts.

Goodman took to her Twitter account to urge California transportation officials to help ease the congestion.

“Hoping everyone had a great time @EDC LasVegas & everyone returns home safely,” Goodman tweeted Oct. 25. “Be careful if you are heading south on I-15 as the road narrows between Stateline, NV & Barstow, CA. Let’s get widening funded @PeteButtigieg, so we can more easily and safely move freight & travelers.”

With the stretch in question falling on California’s side, it would be up to that state to carry out any widening. But Caltrans, California’s state Department of Transportation, said there are no plans for any I-15 road project near the Nevada border.

The agency instead pointed to the long-planned high-speed rail system between Las Vegas and Southern California that could help alleviate traffic congestion.

“Caltrans is working on a long-term solution to congestion issues on I-15 in coordination with the privately funded Brightline West project that would introduce an electric high-speed rail connection between Las Vegas and Southern California,” Caltrans spokesman Will Arnold said in an email. “Caltrans and its partners are making significant progress on this important project.”

Arnold noted the total trip time will be about half the time it takes to drive between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Despite the hope of Brightline’s potential, the company said two weeks ago that it doesn’t yet have a planned groundbreaking date.

Goodman said that with high-speed rail likely still several years away at minimum, something needs to be done now, especially with the pandemic wreaking havoc on California ports and the transporting of goods across the country.

“I hope that they pay attention because this is on the national wavelength now with all of the freight coming in from the Far East stockpiled in Los Angeles and Long Beach that the President (Joe Biden) says needs to move into the rest of the country,” Goodman said. “Brightline is all about a high-speed train, which is wonderful and necessary, but it doesn’t help the here-and-now, the next month or even six months. It’s much further out than that.”

With her decade-long crusade to get the portion of I-15 between Nevada and Barstow, California, widened thus far unsuccessful, Goodman said it might take federal intervention to get that rolling, hence her shoutout to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. She noted that widening I-15 has been estimated to cost up to $2 billion and suggested that highway funds included in the infrastructure bill pending in Congress could be utilized.

The mayor said she understands that California officials don’t want to spend money on something that they perceive benefits Las Vegas. But with the freight issue added in, she believes it’s become more than a local issue.

“But the reality is we are in a crisis, a freight crisis,” she said. “It happens to be a much bigger picture and of course we’ll (Nevada) benefit from it, but the reality is this isn’t about California inside California. This is about the whole nation.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. Send questions and comments to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com.

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