The Nevada Department of Transportation hasn't ruled out building a highway on the eastern rim of the valley as part of the Interstate 11 project, but planners admit it would be an expensive proposition that essentially would complete a freeway loop around Las Vegas.
"Everything is on the table," said Sondra Rosenberg, project manager for Nevada's portion of the I-11 plan, which would create a new interstate highway linking Phoenix and Las Vegas, the two largest cities in the country currently not connected with an interstate.
Rosenberg made her comments at a public meeting Thursday at which representatives of NDOT and the Arizona Department of Transportation explained the process of bringing U.S. 93 up to interstate highway standards.
Most of I-11 would be in Arizona and would likely use U.S. 93, a four-lane divided highway from Hoover Dam at the Nevada border to Kingman and a mix of two- and four-lane roads from Interstate 40 to Wickenburg.
Michael Kies, Rosenberg's Arizona counterpart with ADOT, explained that interstate highway standards would include ramps to enter and exit the highway and overpasses or underpasses at key intersections. Currently, U.S. 93 has several at-grade intersections and traffic lights on the route.
The purpose of Thursday's meeting was to gather public comment as part of a two-year study. About 25 people attended the event at the Henderson Convention Center and most of the questions centered on the Nevada portion of the highway, including a proposed bypass of Boulder City and how I-11 would enter the Las Vegas Valley.
The I-11 proposal began in 1995 when federal transportation leaders designated the Canamex corridor, a route between the Canadian and Mexican borders that would relieve traffic on Interstate 5 through California.
When the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act was signed into law earlier this year, I-11 was born. The federal legislation designated the concept, but there was no funding to build it. In July, Arizona and Nevada began the two-year study. Transportation officials will meet with stakeholder partners and create focus groups to refine plans.
I-11 is envisioned as a multimodal corridor, meaning that planners will look at using the right-of-way for rail, energy and communication transmission lines.
Still ahead are environmental impact studies, preliminary designs and final designs before right-of-way acquisition and engineering can begin.
While it's a near certainty that the U.S. 93 route between the Mike O‚Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge and Wickenberg would be used, what happens north and south of those points is still open to debate.
On the north end, planners are considering a toll road that would loop to the south around Boulder City. Clark County's Regional Transportation Commission has been given the authority to study developing a public-private partnership on a toll road. That study is expected to be completed by spring.
North of Boulder City, it's assumed that Interstate 515 would become the new I-11 into the city, but because planners are looking at all options, other alternatives will be considered.
South of Wickenburg, Kies said ADOT is considering several routes that are various distances west of Phoenix.
Kies said a bypass of Wickenburg is a lively topic in that city, but leaders there say they just want to stay informed of the process.
Kies said Arizona also is looking at the feasibility of toll roads to pay for improvements to upgrade the highway. He said ADOT would continue make improvements on U.S. 93 as currently approved.