LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- A new interstate effort might cut down infamously long commutes and supply chain issues between Southern Nevada and California.
Gov. Steve Sisolak and California Gov. Gavin Newsom held a joint press conference Sunday morning to announce a new direction, after California transportation officials in October said the agency did "not have any projects on the books" to widen the I-15 or address traffic at state line.
On holidays, traffic can be backed up 25 to 30 miles or more between Las Vegas and California, Sisolak said on Sunday at the Mountain Pass port of entry on the California side.
Newsom acknowledged a "deep urgency" for solutions, and promised an initial project would be completed "by the summer." He said he was moved to action when Sisolak contacted him a few weeks ago to say "we can't take it any more."
"California needs to step up. We need a better partnership to address ... a longstanding issue that, candidly, has not been addressed for years and years," Newsom said. "When asked on our side of the border, 'What is Caltrans going to do?' the answer was, 'We have nothing prepared.' That all changed when the governor made the call a few weeks ago."
Newsom said that California and its department of transportation have devised "temporary" strategies, and are working on long-term strategies to address the gridlock.
The temporary strategy is to convert a 5-mile stretch of shoulder at state line to a third lane, with repaving and re-striping. Newsom said the third lane would be used during peak hours, and should provide "some relief" by spring 2022 and will be completed by summer 2022.
"The longer-term strategy of making a third lane permanent or providing more relief -- we have to work with our partners, including California Highway Patrol, that is assembled here, and work with other state partners," said Newsom.
The projected cost is $12 million, and the states will seek federal funding from the Build Back Better plan, Newsom said.
"It will be done by this summer. You're holding me to account-- it's on me to get it done by this summer," said Newsom.
Sisolak told FOX5 after the conference that he believes Newsom's willingness to help stems from a solid working relationship and Nevada's assistance in their fight against recent wildfires in California.
Newsom said he hopes the five-mile widening will provide some immediate relief.
But will it make a noticeable difference to traffic? It's a question we posed to local leaders Monday, and most everyone we heard from said they're just happy something is being attempted in the first place to fix the issue.
"I am so thrilled that the governors have finally gotten together to take a look and begin to address something," said Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman. "Because by the summertime of this year, at least a start will be made by moving a truck into a truck lane... It's a help. it's a start. It's wonderful, but it's a band-aid on a wound that needs a tourniquet."
Goodman said she believes five miles of widening is likely not enough. After all, as she pointed out, bottlenecks do exist at other points of the interstate.
After that five-mile stretch near California's Agricultural Inspection station, the road currently widens back up to three lanes and stays that way for several miles, until Mountain Pass. At this point, the southbound freeway bottlenecks again from three lanes down to two. As most are traveling back into California's most populous cities, few are exiting the freeway before this point.
A Nevada truck driver told FOX5 he feels there are other solutions that should be considered to reduce state line back-ups, which he said are currently causing slow-downs in the supply chain: the placement of the inspection station, for example, and the speed limit reduction for trucks.
"Once you cross the state line, we're required to now go from 70 miles per hour which Nevada allows, and now drop down to 55 miles per hour," said Lorne Houle, who owns Houle Truck Trans LLC.
Everyone else on the road can continue going the same speed.
"We're basically being told to breathe and they're restricting our air," said Houle.
This is something FOX5 asked Newsom about Sunday. Newsome replied, "We are looking across the spectrum. And I know the governor is doing a number of things on his side of the border as well, we're looking at issues like that, related to speed limits, signage, generally."
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitor's Authority's CEO and president weighed in on potential impacts as well.
"Widening to three lanes all the way would help, but that isn't going to solve the entire problem, even if that was a permanent solution," said Steve Hill, the authority's CEO and president.
He said he is just excited that there is now some focus on this issue by California's team.
"I think the thought around the pilot program is to see what this does -- to see how it helps," said Hill.
The business community is also feeling hopeful. Shortly after the press conference, Vegas Chamber's CEO Mary Beth Sewald issued the following statement:
The Vegas Chamber appreciates Governors Sisolak and Newsom collaborating to help address one of the most congested areas of I-15. This is an important step in improving safety and reducing travel times between Las Vegas and Southern California. I-15 is one of the most important economic corridors in our region. We hope this partnership between the leaders of our states leads to the long-term expansion of I-15 that will increase trade and tourism between our economies.