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Blasting near Pahrump in mountain pass could delay Las Vegas commute

Updated September 21, 2018 - 9:52 am

Crews are going to be “blasting” starting Monday along Highway 160, in the mountain pass area, that connects Pahrump to Las Vegas, as part of a nearly two-year-long widening project. Motorists planning to travel through the area could experience long delays, periodically.

The Nevada Department of Transportation will be blasting in the Mountain Springs area starting Sept. 24 and continuing through Oct. 15 east of Mount Potosi Canyon Road, in southwestern Clark County. Blasting is projected to occur between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., every other workday, with delays for motorists expected, as the highway will be closed during the blasting period, according to NDOT.

According to a release from NDOT, motorists could experience delays ranging from 30 minutes to two hours, “while crews place explosives, check the blast area and clear away any stray rubble and debris,” a release from NDOT stated.

NDOT reported in a news release that the blasting is necessary to remove fractured bedrock outcroppings for a six-mile-long widening project that will increase the Highway 160 from two to four lanes.

Motorists do have an option to use other routes, including heading north on Highway 160 toward U.S. Highway 95. Once Highway 95 is reached, motorists would turn right (south) toward Las Vegas. The U.S. Highway 95 alternative route does add mileage and travel time to the typical trip through the mountain pass to Las Vegas.

Emergency vehicles

The planned blasting may cause some delays for emergency vehicles.

“If an emergency vehicle needs to travel along 160 during an emergency response, it will be too dangerous for them to go through,” said Don Christiansen, resident engineer for NDOT. “During the actual blast time, they will not be able to go through, but once the blasting is over and they are doing the cleanup, we can shuttle and escort an emergency vehicle through, if there is a need for that.”

Christiansen added that “the general public, however, will have to wait until the road is cleaned up.”

Emergency officials in Pahrump are preparing.

Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Services Chief Scott Lewis said that the agency is “taking precautionary measures where we are working with the hospitals on inter-facility transfers as well as incidents that may occur out on the highway.”

Lewis added that the agency is “also working with the Clark County Fire Department and we have made contingency plans for responses to make sure that there is appropriate coverage, given the conditions on the highway. We will also be working with crews from NDOT to make sure that we have every opportunity to get past that site in a timely fashion.”

Blasting

More blasting is planned going forward.

Christiansen sent a letter to the Mountain Springs Citizens Advisory Council members with details about the blasting schedule. In that letter it was stated that “blasting closer to/within Mountain Springs will occur during the last half of October, or possibly early November.”

Notification will be sent to each Mountain Springs resident before the blasting closer to residences was to occur.

According to the letter, “blasting will continue for a time into the fall, then there will be a break for a few months. At a future time, to be determined, during 2019, blasting will resume for a couple of months.”

Highway 160 widening project

That portion of the nearly $59 million project will occur between mileposts 16 and 22, which starts east of the mountain pass and heads to the western edge of Mountain Springs. The contractor of the project is Aggregate Industries SWR Inc.

“This vital southwest valley corridor serves as a crucial link between Las Vegas and Pahrump,” said NDOT spokesman Tony Illia in a news release about the overall project. “Rapid development, additional residents, and increased travel has ratcheted the need for freeway improvements. This project, as a result, will expand capacity and enhance motorist safety while also improving mobility and reliability.”

According to a release from NDOT, “the project calls for installing five miles of raised concrete median barrier, new signage and flattening side slopes for safer turnouts, as well as placing new cattleguards and a wildlife undercrossing near mile marker 18. The Mountain Springs community, meanwhile, will receive new frontage roads, improved intersection lighting and an emergency signal for Clark County Volunteer Fire Station #79.”

A rebuilding and paving project on Highway 160’s eastbound lanes, from the western edge of Mountain Springs to around the Nye County line, is also part of the project pegged for completion in August 2020. According to previous comments by Illia to the Pahrump Valley Times, the overall project will occur segmentally.

For more information about conditions on Nevada’s highways, head to NvRoads.com or call 511. NDOT also uses the Waze app to inform the public about planned highway restrictions. “But unscheduled construction changes, closures and restrictions are possible due to weather or other factors,” NDOT stated in a release.

Reporter Selwyn Harris contributed to this story

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com

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