Roads week on WCN: Bright idea


As the seventh-largest state in the US by area, Nevada needs its roads. And the largest freeway construction project in the state’s history is currently underway.

Called Project Neon and commissioned by the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT), the undertaking covers a 3.7-mile corridor through the heart of Las Vegas and will cost almost $1bn in total. It includes the approach spiral Interstate 15/US Highway 95 interchange — otherwise known as the Spaghetti Bowl — where around 300,000 vehicles pass through daily, conducting 25,000 lane changes every hour.

Design lead on the project team is Atkins, who are managing all design and engineering services, including the project’s Active Traffic Management System (ATM). This is key to realising the NDOT’s overall construction plan, which prioritises safety and driver awareness.

It involves keeping motorists informed with real-time information and updates — before, during and after the construction of the freeway project. Atkins has previous experience with this type of technology, having designed freeway management systems for more than 80 miles of roads in Southern Nevada in the past.

The dynamic message signs positioned over the freeways provide information on alternative routes, any traffic incidents and restrictions, and instructions regarding lane control and variable speed limits.
The project is indicative of more than one current trend in the road construction sector, says Atkins.

“As a design, engineering and project management consultancy, we have seen an increase in the use of public-private partnerships (P3) to fund and operate projects, as well as an increase in design-build as the method for project delivery,” says Barry Schulz, chief operating officer for Atkins, North America.

“The demand for road infrastructure and improvements that increase safety and mobility remains constant. Cities are making investments in fixed rail transit systems, including Denver, Colorado’s FasTracks — one of the largest voter-approved, transit expansion programs in the US. We served as a design subconsultant to the Fluor/HDR team, providing corridor management and design services for this P3.”

Atkins has also worked to keep the public informed as to the scope and vision of the project. To this end, visitors to the Project Neon Public Information Office can explore the finished freeways using virtual reality technology.

The office has virtual reality goggles, touch screens, and a 72-inch monitor that provide visitors with an illustration of how the future overpasses, traffic lanes and other amenities will look when completed.

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