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EDITORIAL: Newsom needs to expand I-15

Before California Governor Gavin Newsom makes any more New Year’s resolution, he should fulfill a commitment he made in 2021.

As the New Year approached, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman again called on California to ease congestion for those traveling here. More than 400,000 tourists came and celebrated New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas. Many drove in from California. As wonderful as the celebration was, the predictable traffic backups along Interstate 15 weren’t.

“We are excited that traveling between Southern California and Las Vegas may someday include the option of high-speed rail, but in the meantime California needs to widen the I-15 from Barstow to Stateline,” Ms. Goodman wrote on X.

It’s a familiar call. She has made a similar request several times over the years, and she’s correct. Relying on a train that may or may not get built and may or may not generate significant ridership is folly. More needs to be done now.

Gov. Newsom doesn’t seem to care, even though he pretended to in December 2021. He and Steve Sisolak, Nevada’s governor at the time, held a much ballyhooed news conference to announce immediate relief at the state border. Even at the time, that was obviously a ploy to help Mr. Sisolak politically.

“There’s a deep urgency for us to meet this moment. We’re not passively interested in trying to episodically solve this. We’re here for the long haul. We want to get this fixed. And I made that crystal clear to my team,” Gov. Newsom said at the time.

His words sound smooth and slick when he speaks, but they usually turn to gravel when you consider the results. The immediate relief didn’t happen. It took California almost a year to open a one-mile transition lane. After around 21 months, California finally completed a $5.1 million project to repaint and repave the shoulder. That added a lane from the border to the agricultural checkpoint — part-time. For reasons that only a bureaucrat could explain, it’s open only on Sundays and Mondays. Unsurprisingly, it has helped reduce traffic, but more is needed.

If California is doing anything else to turn Gov. Newsom’s “deep urgency” into action, state officials have done a good job of hiding it. The only “long haul” Nevadans can see are all the tail lights of Californians stuck in traffic. It appears California doesn’t like so many of its residents leaving its state for entertainment. Instead of winning them back, it prefers to make travel more onerous.

There’s another irony here. Gov. Newsom has been one of the leading voices of the global warming alarmism movement. In 2022, he signed a bill demanding California achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. If the governor actually wanted to reduce carbon emissions, he would follow Ms. Goodman’s advice and expand I-15 to keep the traffic flowing.

This commentary initially appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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