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Driving to Vegas From Southern California: FUGGHETABOUT IT - Highway Projects To Block Direct Vegas Route

By Chuckmonster on Thursday, 15th June 2006 3:03pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 0


There will be some weekends this summer and next summer when going to Las Vegas will be a very, very bad idea. No, not because you might cash out your 401(k) when you're certain 21 has to come up next. Not because your spouse might learn that what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas. No, you'll want to avoid it because on those nine weekends, a traffic apocalypse will descend on the Cajon Pass.

Innocuously dubbed "Devore 2" by Caltrans, the $26 million project will mean some total freeway closures. Picture all lanes of traffic being shoehorned onto off-ramps and then surface streets, including Glen Helen Parkway. A major outreach plan is in the works to warn motorists to stay away from the bottom of Cajon Pass during those days or to take lengthy alternate

"We are pulling out all our tricks of the trade to keep the public informed," said Rose Melgoza, a Caltrans spokeswoman. The project includes a three-mile truck-climbing lane on the northbound side from where Interstate 215 joins Interstate 15. When finished sometime in late 2007, the truck-climbing lane is expected to improve the traffic flow for High Desert commuters, especially on those jampacked Friday nights when workers heading home are joined by gamblers, partyers, boaters and other funseekers.

The ramps off I-15 at Sierra Avenue and Glen Helen Parkway will be repaired, and the concrete damaged by countless heavy trucks will be replaced, making for a much smoother ride. But during times when portions of either the I-15 or I-215 are shut down, getting to the other freeway will involve slow, circuitous detours.

It's best not to be there at all, officials warned. "If nobody's diverted, it will be horrendous," said Norman Suydam, Caltrans project manager.

By diverted, he meant the folks who stay away. Officials are hoping 30 percent of the regular traffic will either pick another weekend to travel or take an alternate route. The junction of I-15 and I-215 in Devore sees an average of more than 150,000 vehicles per day. The project, which will begin later this summer, is expected to be finished in late 2007.

The weekends for the closures have not been selected yet. Officials expect two or three closures this summer, with the rest next year. Officials are talking to the Hyundai Pavilion at Glen Helen to see when they have big events, and are also in touch with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to see what's on the calendar in southern Nevada.

Once they determine which dates are relatively empty of big draws, the closures will occur late Friday after the Las Vegas-bound rush hour, with the lanes due to reopen early Sunday afternoon before the return traffic hits.

For Inland Empire residents, it appears the easiest full detour would be to head up Highway 18 to Crestline and then take Highway 138 past Silverwood Lake back to I-15, a journey of more than 30 miles on some twisting mountain roads.

To take the really long scenic route to Laughlin or Las Vegas, one could head east on Interstate 10 to Highway 62 past Twentynine Palms and then take Highway 95 north. Travelers from Los Angeles have the option of going up Highway 14 to Highway 58 and then east to rejoin I-15 in Barstow. During the project, there will be a freeway service patrol working, namely a tow truck offering free help to stranded motorists, including a tow off the freeway if necessary.

Caltrans' Melgoza said officials are encouraging Las Vegas resorts to offer incentives for people to go early and stay late.



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