LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Tropicana bridge over the I-15 freeway has transformed into a ‘diverging diamond,’ an interchange that transportation officials say will help traffic efficiency amid the largest roadway expansion project in Nevada. However, in some cases, it’s seemingly doing the opposite.
The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) installed the temporary interchange over the
weekend as it widens and raises the bridge that is no longer tall enough to meet federal height requirements. Traffic is currently on the southern portion of the bridge as the northern part was demolished.
Diverging diamond interchanges (DDI) direct traffic to the opposite side of the road before directing it back to the proper side. NDOT says these are frequently seen beneath or above
freeway bridges to allow access to freeway on-ramps without stopping or conflicting with through traffic.
Justin Hopkins, NDOT public information officer, said it’s intended to keep traffic moving as “Dropicana” construction minimizes travel to two lanes in both directions, down from three
lanes in both directions before the weekend.
8 News Now was posted near the interchange with an overhead view for just 30 minutes Friday
morning. During that time, there were multiple cars driving on the wrong side of the road and near-crashes were witnessed.
Drivers, like Jeff and Debbie Cottrell, said “it’s like driving in England” and confusing at the first drive-through. The California couple was en route to Utah.
“We were totally lost. We were trying to find the hamburger place, and we couldn’t,” Jeff
said, standing in the In-N-Out parking lot located directly next to the bridge. “You’re on
the wrong side of the road. You start to think, ‘okay, are the guys coming from the other
direction going to be the same way on their side?’”
“Daytime, you can see. Nighttime? That’s going to be different,” Debbie added.
NDOT reopened the bridge early Monday morning, only to close it again that night to repaint
what was washed away.
“Unfortunately, right when we reopened is when that storm moved in Monday morning and
brought all that rain,” Hopkins said during a virtual interview Friday morning. “A lot of
the striping didn’t have time to cure down to the road and some of our temporary raised
pavement markers also came up.”
Besides repainting arrows on the ground, they additionally added features to prevent common
driving mistakes. Hopkins says within the first 48 hours, drivers were witnessed ignoring
the traffic signs and continuing down the wrong side of the road, along with northbound
drivers exiting I-15 into the westbound Tropicana lane with oncoming traffic.
These features include larger traffic signs, more reflective markers on the floor, and
repositioned dividers. Regardless, NDOT is urging drivers to slow down and simply follow the
“Don’t necessarily just follow the car in front of you, because if the car in front of you
makes the wrong movement, you don’t want to just follow them blindly. Really pay attention
and understand where you’re supposed to go,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins added that he is unaware of any collisions in the area specifically because of the DDI.
The interchange will remain in effect through phases two and three of the I-15/Tropicana
the project, which is roughly another year and a half.
The north part of this bridge was taken down over the weekend and is scheduled to reopen
after widening and heightening this fall. Once that opens, NDOT says the DDI will move to
this new bridge as widening and heightening is then pursued on the southern portion.