Interstate 11's Boulder City bypass opens with much fanfare

Elected officials and dignitaries get caught up in celebratory streamers during the grand opening of a new section of Interstate 11 Thursday, August 9, 2018, in Boulder City. From left are Boulder City Mayor Rod Woodbury, Clark County Commissioner Jim Gibson, Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Federal Highway Administration Director of Field Services West Peter Osborn, Nevada State Sen. Joe Hardy, and Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce President Mary Beth Sewald. The section, also referred to as the Boulder City Bypass, marks the official start of the I-11 project between Las Vegas and Phoenix. CREDIT: Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

If you make the drive to Arizona often, you'll soon have an entirely new way to get there. By the end of the day Thursday, Interstate 11 will officially be open.

The first car from the public to take the drive down I-11 traveled along the northbound side a little after noon Thursday.

By the evening, the empty lanes on the southbound side will have headlights zooming over them as well.

The $318 million project kicked off with a grand opening ceremony. Hundreds came out to the event to hear leaders representing Nevadans from the local to the national stage.

"The I-11 project will relieve congestion, improve safety, enhance travel, and commerce between these two great states,” Peter Osborn, with the Federal Highway Administration said.

Thursday’s opening marks the first full chunk of I-11, which is expected to one day span the West — linking drivers from Mexico to Canada. That’s most likely still decades down the road, but for now, the four-lane interstate is set to link Southern Nevadans to Arizona, cutting down drive times by up to 30 minutes.

The thinking is, this portion of I-11, also known as the Boulder City Bypass, will send all that Arizona-bound traffic out of town but the debate is whether it will cause dollars and business to bypass Boulder City too.

Billy Hunter, who is from Green Valley, expressed concern that the bypass might have a negative effect on Boulder City.

“I’m concerned about the small business owners in Boulder City,” he said. “I know a few of them. I come here to Boulder City to get out of the stress of my job. I love this little town, and I don’t want people hurt. But, we’ll see.”

However, the General Manager of Milo’s Cellar and Inn, Robert Comminos, says he thinks the local spots won’t see too much of a change.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “I think people come here as a destination point, typically from Las Vegas.”

From here, Arizona’s transportation agencies will pick up the next big chunk of I-11. Nevada officials are also now working to figure out where to take I-11’s Nevada lanes next.

The route has been narrowed down to three options, either moving through the Vegas valley or around it. A decision is expected in September.

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