The Nevada Department of Transportation announced the completion of its $59 million, two-year upgrade of state Route 160 in southwest Clark County, a critical stretch of rural highway which averages about 8,600 vehicles daily as it serves as the main travel corridor between Las Vegas and Pahrump.
Aggregate Industries SWR Inc. was the general contractor, with the CA Group responsible for the design, engineering and environmental work.
The project widened a 6-mile stretch of asphalt highway from two to four travel lanes between mile markers 16 and 22, creating a safe passing lane for slower moving traffic while altering the roadway geometry for fewer twists and turns. Work additionally entailed rehabilitating 22 miles of deteriorating roadway from roughly the Nye County line to the Mountain Springs community.
This vital route serves as a crucial economic link between Las Vegas and Pahrump. Rapid development, additional residents and increased travel has ratcheted the need for freeway improvements. This project subsequently expanded the roadway while enhancing motorist safety for improved mobility and reliability.
“We are thrilled for the recently completed $59 million upgrade of state Route 160,” said Arlette Ledbetter, Pahrump’s tourism director. “This route is the most scenic route to Death Valley National Park, and at a time when people are looking for social distancing this meets the criteria.”
Construction proved tricky because of the needed removal of some stubborn fractured bedrock through Mt. Potosi for the expanded highway. The contracting team consequently undertook 58 blasting events that necessitated temporarily shutting down the highway in both directions, ranging from 30 to 120 minutes, while crews placed explosives, checked the blast area and cleared any stray rubble and debris.
North Las Vegas-based blasting subcontractor Sanders Construction used roughly 120,000 total pounds of explosives that helped remove 100,756 cubic yards of material or enough rock and dirt to fill more than 30 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The first blasting event occurred Sept. 24, 2018, with the last one taking place July 15, 2019.
Meanwhile, other project enhancements consisted of placing 5 miles of raised concrete median barrier, installing new signage and flattening side slopes for safer turnouts. Nearly 30 acres of raw desert was hydro-seeded, and 784 new tree saplings and shrubs were installed, with 1,000 cacti and yuccas being salvaged and replanted. Also, the Mountain Springs community received new frontage roads, improved intersection lighting and an emergency signal for Clark County Volunteer Fire Station 79.
Additional improvements called for new cattle guards and an underground wildlife undercrossing near mile marker 18, with 10 miles of combined deer and tortoise fencing. Crews placed 590 boulders, 14,000 cubic yards of riprap and 1,706 tons of decorative rock for landscaping and aesthetics that also helps with erosion control and stormwater runoff. The project additionally placed flood control channels, box culverts and 6 miles of storm drainage pipe up to 4 feet in diameter.
Contractors, in total, used 2.4 million pounds of reinforcing steel, enough to build 650 cars, and moved enough dirt to fill 120 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The project, which began in September 2018, created nearly 300 direct, indirect and induced jobs.
“Completing the SR-160 widening project is an investment in Nevada’s roads connecting Las Vegas to Pahrump, which is the gateway to Death Valley,” said Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo. “We now sit a safe and comfortable ride away, just as it is driving from Henderson to Summerlin.”