Nevada puts a bow on largest public works project in state history

The Nevada Department of Transportation, elected officials and others involved in the project on Thursday celebrated the completion of Project NEON, a $1 billion endeavor in Las Vegas dubbed the “largest public works job in Nevada history,”

Politicians including Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen gathered for the grand finale of the construction project that was, according to Nevada Department of Transportation Director Kristina Swallow, “20 years in the making.” It entailed a four-mile widening of Interstate 15 between U.S. Highway 95 and Sahara in downtown Las Vegas.

“On average, there were three crashes a day in the Spaghetti Bowl, and with Project NEON, there’s not only a safety concern for Nevadans, but we are helping with some of the congestion at the economic center of the valley,” Swallow said when asked about the justification for a project of this price and size.

Sen. Jacky Rosen speaks during the Project Neon Grand Finale event in downtown Las Vegas on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. was awarded the $559.4 million contract for Project NEON in November 2015. Project NEON was a “legacy project” for Kiewit, as the company was in charge of the original construction of Interstate 15 in 1968. The project created 4,000 direct, indirect, and induced local jobs (those created when people working on the job spend money in the community).

The construction has addressed the state’s busiest stretch of freeway, with the I-15 accommodating 300,000 cars daily and 25,000 lane changes hourly. 

From left, radio personality Chet Buchanan, Sen. Jacky Rosen, NDOT Director Kristina Swallow, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, FHWA Field Services West Director Peter Osborn, and Rep Dina Titus stand on stage during the Project Neon Grand Finale event in downtown Las Vegas on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

The actual construction of the project consisted of a new 20-mile-plus network of High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, 63 lane-miles of concrete and asphalt paving, 29 new bridges, and 10 miles of drainage improvements. It also added North-South surface street connections to alleviate congestion and provide more streamlined access to downtown Las Vegas.

With Project NEON complete, there are still many more improvements in the works for the state’s highways, Swallow said. The Nevada Department of Transportation is getting to work on some badly needed projects over the next few years, including the Tropicana bridge and feasibility studies for the I-15 between Flamingo and Sahara. 

“There are plenty of projects,” she said.