By ED VOGEL
Nevada Department of Transportation Director Rudy Malfabon talks to the R-J editorial board at the paper in Las Vegas, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. (Jerry Henkel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CARSON CITY — A plan to issue $100 million in bonds to buy the right of way for the mammoth Project Neon highway improvement project in Las Vegas won quick approval Tuesday from the state Board of Finance.
After the vote, Nevada Transportation Director Rudy Malfabon said bond plan will help his department to more quickly buy parcels in the downtown area needed for Project Neon, a $1.3 billion project to improve the flow of traffic in the “Spaghetti Bowl.” He said he hopes construction can begin in spring 2015 and be completed in 2019.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, chairman of the board, said he wants no interruptions on the construction, which he referred to as “the largest highway construction project in the history of Nevada.” Because land values in the area of the project have doubled in a short time, it is necessary to purchase right of way quickly, he said.
“This is desperately needed,” he said after the meeting. “Anyone who has driven on (U.S. Highway) 95 or I-15 knows that. It will save lives.”
One of the benefits of the project, Malfabon said, was that traffic approaching downtown from the west on U.S. 95 will be able to cross over onto Interstate 15 south without any congestion.
Ironically, one of the Board of Finance members, former Treasurer Steve Martin, said he was delayed in arriving at the meeting because of an accident on Interstate 15. The meeting was teleconferenced between Las Vegas and Carson City.
Malfabon said the Spaghetti Bowl area has one of the highest accident rates and Project Neon could cut accidents substantially.
In response to questions, Malfabon said he hopes the approval of the bonds will not induce some land owners to pursue unnecessary litigation to secure more money for their land. He said they are entitled to fair market value.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901. Follow him on Twitter at @edisonvogel.