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Interstate 15 Nevada

This view shows Interstate 15 and U.S. 93 north from the Exit 54 (Speedway Boulevard) interchange, just north of the Clark County Route 215/Bruce Woodbury Las Vegas Beltway northern terminus. The Las Vegas Basin sits in the Mojave Desert, which offers mountainous, arid scenery from Southern California into Southern Nevada. Photo taken 03/29/08.

Routing

Interstate 15 runs from the community of Barrio Logan in San Diego, California, north to Sweetgrass, Montana, via Riverside, Barstow, Las Vegas, St. George, Cedar City, Provo, Salt Lake City, Ogden, Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Butte, and Helena. Beginning just a few miles north of the Mexican International Border, Interstate 15 angles northeastward on its journey to the Canadian International Border. Interstate 15 is mostly a four- to six-lane freeway through most of Las Vegas, and this section is part of the High Priority Corridor 16. Interstate 15 replaced U.S. 91 in Nevada.

Guide

We begin the journey along Interstate 15 in Primm, which is located on the California-Nevada State Line. A community notable for being the first glitz and glamour seen on northbound Interstate 15 in the Mojave Desert, Primm is notable for the glittering Primadonna Resorts and the first resorts and casino upon leaving California. A towering roller coaster and the first nighttime illumination since leaving Baker differentiates Primm from the surrounding desert. Primm was known as Stateline for a time, but was given the name Primm to avoid confusion with the other Stateline located at the California-Nevada boundary along U.S. 50 on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. It is a short jaunt from Primm to Jean, another roadside gaming community. Jean marks the midway point between Primm and the southern outskirts of greater Las Vegas.

Interstate 15 between Primm and Las Vegas has seen tremendous growth along with the traffic demands of the roadway. By the end of 2002, Interstate 15 had been expanded to six lanes for the entire distance from Primm to Las Vegas, even though Interstate 15 in California had not been widened to six lanes south of Primm by that time. Plans remain for eventual six-laning of Interstate 15 through the Mojave Desert in California (from Primm southwest to Barstow plus additional truck climbing lanes). Truck lanes have already been installed for most uphill grades and some downhill grades. By 2008, Interstate 15 sees additional widening and interchange modifications, including installation of express lanes. The first completed segment is just north of Interstate 215 in the vicinity of the Las Vegas Strip.

Las Vegas looms boldly in the horizon whether you are arriving by day or night. This city never sleeps - one can gamble 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if his/her wallet/pocketbook can afford it. Casinos are strewn throughout the city, but most are concentrated along the fabled "Strip" or in downtown Las Vegas. The Strip actually parallels Interstate 15 between the Interstate 215 interchange and just south of the downtown exits, while downtown is located closer to the Interstate 515 interchange.

Commonly referred to as "Sin City," it's hard to believe that this town lies along the same highway as Salt Lake City and Provo in Utah, since those cities are typically connected with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS, or Mormon) and its pious ways. Las Vegas is an amazing city full of contrasts and extremes. The 100-degree days are tempered by the numerous waterfalls and manmade lakes. Single family homes abut against casinos and gaming halls. Extravagant casinos with motif facades (such as medieval castles, Egyptian pyramids, and major cities) compare with the lesser parts of Las Vegas in need of redevelopment.

While worldwide visitors come to Las Vegas to see the Strip and its fabulous resorts, others make their home in Las Vegas and never even go to the Strip. Many Nevadans respect the fact that the casinos bring in big revenue and jobs, but they stay away from it, as they do not want it to be part of their daily lives. Of course, there are many aspiring actors, musicians, waitresses, entrepreneurs, and others who see the Las Vegas Strip as an endless land of opportunity, a place to make a living.

Interstate 15 labors through the southern outskirts of Las Vegas all the way past the Strip and downtown to the north side with increasing traffic around the Strip and downtown. Las Vegas has seen incredible growth in the past 30 years. The freeway has seen constant improvements and roadwork through the 1990s and 2000s, including the installation of express lanes by 2010. Supplemental freeways, such as Summerlin Parkway, Interstate 515, and Interstate 215 all arrived through the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. These freeways are similarly becoming well-traveled and starting to jam up with cross-town travelers. New casinos are being erected at a rapid pace, while old ones had been demolished with state-of-the-art implosion devices. Even with the Great Recession starting in 2008, people still flock to greater Las Vegas.

Significant sections of "Spaghetti Bowl" interchange, which connects Interstate 15, Interstate 515 (Future Interstate 11), U.S. 93, and U.S. 95 was reconstructed during the late 1990s and early 2000. Most construction was completed in March 2000, when then-Governor Kenny Guinn cut the ribbon on the last major ramp of the Interstate 15/U.S. 95 Spaghetti Bowl interchange, which included the 50-foot high ramp connecting Interstate 15 north with Martin Luther King Boulevard. Here are some of the new features from the first two phases of Spaghetti Bowl reconstruction since the first ramp opened in Winter 1999:

  • Two-lane ramp from Interstate 15 north to U.S. 95 north
  • Two-lane ramp from U.S. 95 south to Interstate 15 south
  • Two-lane ramp from Interstate 15 north to Interstate 515/U.S. 93-95/Future Interstate 11 south, including an exit only lane to Casino Center
  • One-lane ramp from Interstate 15 south to U.S. 95 north, including a side ramp to Martin Luther King Boulevard
  • One-lane ramp from Interstate 15 south to Interstate 515/U.S. 93-95/Future Interstate 11 south
  • Two-lane ramp from Interstate 515/U.S. 93-95/Future Interstate 11 north to Interstate 15 south
  • One-lane ramp from U.S. 95 north to Martin Luther King Boulevard
  • One-lane ramp from Interstate 15 north to Martin Luther King Boulevard
  • One-lane ramp from Martin Luther King Boulevard to both directions of Interstate 15
  • U.S. 95 is now at least six lanes wide through the interchange

Facilities are in place for new ramps from Interstate 515/U.S. 93-95/Future Interstate 11 north to Interstate 15 north and U.S. 95 south to Interstate 15/U.S. 93 north. The original interchange was built to handle 60,000 cars per day, while the new interchange, with an expected life span of 20 years, is built to handle 500,000 cars per day.

After Interstate 15 leaves the Spaghetti Bowl (Interstate 515/Future Interstate 11/U.S. 93-95), traffic begins to calm down for the first time in its northward journey. By the time Interstate 15 (and tag-along U.S. 93 north) reaches the northern boundaries of the Las Vegas urban area, the road is once again two lanes in each direction, with a much smaller amount of traffic than before. The Los Angeles-to-Las Vegas traffic is now gone. Much of the land is low-altitude desert (having descended from the tall ridges in California), with some Joshua Trees and plenty of sagebrush all around. U.S. 93 departs the freeway at Apex and proceeds north along the Great Basin Highway to travel along the desolate yet scenic eastern spine of Nevada, while Interstate 15 enters the Moapa Indian Reservation and quickly exits as it heads northeast toward Mesquite, the Virgin River Gorge, and St. George, Utah.

About 120 miles northeast of Primm, we reach Mesquite, another border gambling town similar to Primm. Since there is far less traffic heading south into Nevada, Mesquite is not as overt as Primm is, but there are still plenty of casinos and gaming halls to go around. I used to enjoy Player's Island, but that casino has since changed owners and names.

Interstate 15 immediately crosses the Arizona State Line right after Mesquite. Interstate 15 was bored through the Virgin River Gorge, which was the most expensive stretch of road ever built when it was completed (as of 2007, this honor goes to Interstate 90 and Interstate 93 in Boston as part of the Big Dig project).

Aside from the small community of Littlefield, there are no additional motorist facilities on Interstate 15 until St. George, Utah, which is another study in contrasts. Southern Utah is notorious for its strong, conservative Mormon population; however, retirees from other parts of the country have retired there for its warmth and beauty year-round. Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, plus the beauty of the Great Basin and eventually the Wasatch Front lie ahead.

History

Interstate 15 replaced U.S. 91 for its entire run through Nevada, and it also replaced U.S. 466 between the California-Nevada State Line and downtown Las Vegas. When traveling through Las Vegas, U.S. 91 used to follow Las Vegas Boulevard through the Strip (Paradise) and downtown. Portions of the old U.S. route are designated as Nevada 604, while other segments are city or county maintained.

Parallel U.S. Routes

U.S. 93 shares pavement with Interstate 15 from downtown Las Vegas through North Las Vegas and Apex, departing the freeway at Exit 64.

Interstate 15 Highway Guides

Scenes Pertaining to Interstate 15
Spring Mountain Road eastbound meets the directional-cloverleaf interchange with Interstate 15 (Exit 39). A high-speed flyover carries southbound motorists onto Spring Mountain Road eastbound ahead of the Las Vegas Strip (Former Nevada 604 and Former U.S. 91/Las Vegas Boulevard) in the distance. Photos taken 11/01.
Washington Avenue westbound meets the split-diamond interchange with Interstate 15 (Exit 44) northwest of downtown Las Vegas. An older non-reflective guide sign remains in use for the southbound on-ramp ahead. Photos taken 10/19/04.
The southbound on-ramp and associated freeway entrance shield assembly is located at the Carp Elgin Road diamond interchange (Exit 100). Exit 100 serves local/ranch/BLM access between Glendale and Mesquite. Photos taken 10/19/04.

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Page Updated July 8, 2012.