Ensign Wants Nevada Job to Move Forward

Mon May 30, 2005 - West Edition

LAS VEGAS (AP) A Nevada senator is pressing highway planners and the Sierra Club to settle a lawsuit blocking construction of new lanes on a key southern Nevada freeway.

Sen. John Ensign, R-NV, offered legislation to declare National Environmental Policy Act requirements to have been met, and allow completion of a project to widen a 5-mi. stretch of U.S. 95 northwest of the Las Vegas Strip.

Several hundred homes and businesses already have been demolished to make room for widening the state’s most congested freeway between the region’s employment hub and sprawling northwest Las Vegas bedroom communities.

Ensign’s measure, introduced as an amendment to a $295-billion highway and transit bill, would be withdrawn if the Sierra Club and highway planners reach an agreement, Ensign Spokesman Jack Finn said.

The project has been stalled since July, when a federal court granted the Sierra Club a temporary injunction and ordered contractors not to pave new lanes. The court allowed drainage and sound wall work to continue, but work on those parts of the project is nearing completion.

The environmental organization lost a 2002 lawsuit arguing that the government must prove the health of people living nearby won’t be harmed by increased automobile exhaust.

The widening is part of a $370-million freeway upgrade that the Federal Highway Administration said will ease congestion and improve safety for 200,000 vehicles a day.