Last week’s mention of Boulder City as my favorite Vegas suburb raised the question of what might happen to the town once the Interstate 11 bypass is completed in late 2018. That bypass will eventually become part of a new interstate highway between Las Vegas and Phoenix. Drivers wanting to avoid hundreds of miles of challenging two-lane travel between those two cities must currently go through Flagstaff, itself an up-and-coming Route 66 college town enjoying (or suffering, depending on one’s position) a downtown revival.
It’s an interesting question, especially since the interstate highway system is noted as having killed many small American towns that thrived when the highway ran through them instead of bypassing them. Thanks to its thus-far-unavoidable presence on the direct route to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, Boulder City has developed quite an array of local businesses along its main drag (U.S. Route 93), from restaurants to vintage stores to outdoor outfitters.
Yet despite that commercial success (or perhaps because of it), some vocal residents of growth-averse Boulder City were successful in preventing a direct I-11 off-ramp to the town from being built. By 2019, not only will semitrucks be able to avoid the crawling 25-mph delay through Boulder City, but speeding interstate motorists will have to make a deliberate decision to slow down, exit and visit. Having (much) less traffic passing through might improve the immediate quality of life for nearby residents, but one wonders about the negative impact on the town’s still-developing character as a way station for outdoor enthusiasts. One thing is certain: The town will have to work to attract visitors in ways it hasn’t had to before.
As far as the question raised, I’ll give you three reasons (among many) to stop in Boulder City: Boulder Dam Brewing Company, Milo’s Cellar and The Dillinger. All are locally owned restaurants with outdoor dining; the last hosts an annual block party that features a local live music lineup that rivals any in Downtown Las Vegas. This year’s party happens on May 13.
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