LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Do you recall driving down the I-515 and suddenly realizing you’re no longer on the I-515 but somehow got on the US-95, or perhaps you were heading down the I-215, and your navigation is now saying you are on the I-11? No, you’re not crazy and certainly not alone. Many drivers have, at one point, found navigating the Las Vegas highways confusing. Here’s why the same road you’re traveling may have an alias.
‘The 95’ aka… US-95 aka… I-515
One of the most confusing directions for new residents driving on Las Vegas valley highways is the Interstate 515 (I-515), or as locals call it, “The 95.”
This section of pavement runs about 14 and a half miles from the I-11/I-215 junction in the southwest valley to the I-15, US 93, and US-95 junction, known to those who know, commonly referred to as the “Spaghetti Bowl” near downtown Las Vegas. Wait, what? Stay with us.
The 95 continues through the Spaghetti Bowl to the west of the Las Vegas valley, then turns north near the Rainbow Boulevard exit aka the “Rainbow Curve,” then heads northwest out of town. It continues past the Mt. Charleston exits, through Indian Springs, and goes north until it becomes part of Interstate 80 for almost 100 miles, and then it becomes only US-95 again. Whew!
Highway vs Interstate
According to the Federal Highway Administration, a highway is a general term used to describe any public or private road with medium to heavy traffic, including named freeways and expressways. Interstates are a vast network of controlled-access or restricted-access highways forming most of the nation’s highway system. So interstates can be highways, but not the other way around.
‘The Beltway’ aka…’The Las Vegas Beltway’ aka… I-215
Another main highway also encircles the Las Vegas metro area is officially known as the Bruce Woodbury Beltway. But it’s also called the Las Vegas Beltway, Interstate 215 (I-215), and Clark County Route 215 (CC 215), depending on what part of the road is being referenced—confused yet? This same highway can also be called a freeway or expressway.
The Beltway can also be referenced differently depending on the area of the valley you are driving on it. For example, say you are on The Beltway in the southwest part of the valley, then you are likely going on the “The Durango Curve.” However, if you’re at the northern end of the valley driving on The Beltway, you are likely on the “Northern Beltway,” an east-west stretch across the valley.
In this example, the easiest way to reference the road would be to call it “The 215.” In Las Vegas, it is common to say “the” before the interstate or highway number, and in this case, “The 215 Beltway” covers both the interstate and county route number.
Anyone who drives the Northern Beltway can attest that the 215 is still under construction. New ramps opened in the northeast valley where “The 15” and “The 215 (aka CC 215)” meet near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Once the construction ends on The 215, the project will get upgraded and be an entire freeway; that section of the highway will also be known as an interstate again. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2022.
‘The 15’ aka… I-15 aka… California State Line
The most extensive travel route to the Las Vegas valley is Interstate 15 (I-15), which runs north and south from the California state line at Primm to the Arizona border just past Mesquite northeast of the state. But even the I-15 has been known by other names. Around 1900 the route was the Arrowhead Trail. In 1919, a portion of I-15 between Mesquite and Las Vegas was known as State Route 6. The remaining section of the I-15 highway to California was named the Arrowhead Trail.
These names lasted until 1927 when I-15 was named US-91. In 1955, US 91 (aka Route 91) was redesigned again, and construction of the new Interstate 15 began around 1960 and was completed in 1974.
The original Route 91 is now Las Vegas Boulevard aka “The Las Vegas Strip.” In Nevada, Interstate 15 stretches through the desert for almost 124 miles without leaving Clark County.