$6M grant to supplement highway tech funding

A $6 million federal grant will allow local transportation agencies to expand technology efforts on Las Vegas Valley freeways.

The grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will go toward a 5-mile expansion of road technologies on U.S. Highway 95 between the Spaghetti Bowl downtown and Summerlin Parkway. The heavily used corridor carries 230,000 vehicles daily.

Included in the project is the expanded use of active traffic management (ATM) signs that were installed along Interstate 15 and a small portion of U.S. 95 during Project Neon. The dynamic digital overhead messaging signs warn motorists about incidents, speed reduction and lane closures ahead to mitigate crashes tied to sudden braking when traffic congestion occurs.

Additionally, occupancy detection sensors will be added to HOV lanes to collect data that will help reduce congestion and emissions and wrong-way sensors will be added to sections of the highway that alert drivers that they’re traveling in the wrong direction.

“It is essential that we prioritize safety and efficiency on the roadways that Nevadans rely on every day to get to work and home to their families,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who advocated for the grant, said in a statement. “This grant will fund emerging technologies on freeways in Las Vegas to improve traffic management, prevent car accidents, and inform first responders of incidents as quickly as possible.”

The expansion is estimated to cost $15 million, with local governments paying 60 percent, or $9 million, and the federal government providing 40 percent. There is no timeframe for when the project is expected to get underway, according to Tony Illia, Nevada Department of Transportation spokesman.

The FHWA evaluated 46 applications requesting more than $205 million, awarding $49.6 million to 10 projects nationwide.

The project is a partnership between NDOT, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, Nevada Highway Patrol, UNLV and tech company Waycare. Its aim is to increase safety on US 95 by mitigating congestion, decreasing the number of crashes, reducing travel time and enhancing the overall efficiency of the freeway.

“As the traffic management agency for the region, it is essential that we continue to collaborate with the state and local governments and our university to employ emerging technologies to improve safety, mitigate traffic and help save lives,” said M.J. Maynard, RTC CEO in a statement. “This grant will enable us to work closely with our long-standing partners to expand our footprint in informing motorists, emergency responders and traffic technicians about incidents in real time.”

NDOT Director Kristina Swallow said working with all levels of partners from local, state, and federal levels is needed to develop creative and high-tech solutions to improve traffic safety and efficiency in the valley.

“NDOT is committed to leveraging every tool available, including emergency technologies, to further our mission of making Nevada safe and connected,” Swallow said in a statement.

Contact Mick Akers at [email protected] or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.