Project Neon is a multi-phase project that will cost taxpayers well over a billion dollars to improve traffic flow on Interstate 15.
To complete the four-phase project, the Nevada Department of Transportation needs to obtain the rights to some 200 parcels of private property along the highway.
Any buildings on those parcels will be torn down to make way for the freeway expansion.
However, the properties, which are now in the hands of NDOT, have included some surprises, like a 130-year-old grapevine that once belonged to Mormon settlers and a colony of feral cats.
Tony Illia, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Transportation, told to KNPR's State of Nevada that the grapevine was brought to Las Vegas from Toquerville, Utah, which is just outside of St. George, when Mormon settlers there stopped producing wine.
It made its way to its current spot near Wall Street and Western Avenue in 1972. However, the building it is next to is slated to be demolished to make way for the freeway expansion.
"It would be a loss if it were to get demolished and just razed over and it has sort of a neat lineage to it," Illia said.
Instead of seeing the historic vine lost, NDOT contacted the Mormon Fort, a state museum at the site of the first Mormon settlement in Southern Nevada.
The Mormon Fort agreed to take the vine and put it in its garden. Now, the effort to move the plant is underway, but first, clippings of the plant will be made so if it dies during the process pieces of it will be protected and regrown.
Now, to the cats. According to Illia, the cats were found in a vacant house that is also being torn down.
NDOT is now trying to contact the property's owner to say "hey, you forgot your cats," Illia said.
Illia defended the efforts to find a home for the cats.
"We're cat lovers at NDOT." he said. "We don't have anything against the cats, if we're able to place them in safe custody or turn them back to their owner or find new homes for them then absolutely, because it's the right thing to do."
If they can't find the cats' owner, then the department will have to turn to animal control or the Animal Foundation.
Tony llia, spokesman, Nevada Department of Transportation
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