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September 2, 2014

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Boulder City OKs traffic measures tied to bypass

Safety improvements along U.S. 93 could begin this year in preparation for the influx of traffic in 2010, when the Hoover Dam Bypass opens.

The Nevada Department of Transportation this month awarded the $1.2 million contract for a new overhead sign on Nevada Highway west of the U.S. 93 intersection, pavement rumble strips on U.S. 93 and median islands and lighting at U.S. 93 and Pacifica Way, Lake Mountain Drive and Ville Drive.

Glenn Petrenko, NDOT senior project manager, told the City Council Tuesday that the additions would likely begin this year.

The council voted unanimously to approve several other ways to lessen traffic congestion and make roads safer for when 2,000 tractor-trailers are expected to pass through town daily to and from the bypass bridge:

  • Endorsing NDOT's plans for Phase 1 of the Boulder City Bypass.
  • Endorsing NDOT's proposed changes at Buchanan Boulevard and Nevada Way, to alleviate congestion.
  • Consulting with Regional Transportation Commission about further congestion relief and alternatives.
  • Requesting NDOT study the possibility of an "acceleration lane" at Lake Mountain Drive and U.S. 93.

The council also agreed not to pursue access roads or bridges to neighborhoods north of U.S. 93 along the truck route.

NDOT has divided in two parts the creation of the Boulder City Bypass, which would redirect Hoover Dam Bypass traffic around the south of town to connect with U.S. 93 near Railroad Pass Casino.

The city will send a letter of support to NDOT for its plans for Phase 1, the western part of the proposed highway, which connects U.S. 95 south to Laughlin to U.S. 93/95 near Railroad Pass.

NDOT does not have enough funding for the project, which it estimates will be completed in 2018. So far, it does not even have enough to cover the first part of Phase 1 — purchase of rights-of-way and relocation of utilities, at an estimated $45 million to $65 million. So far, NDOT has $27.8 million secured, Petrenko said. He expected that task to take three to five years.

NDOT does not have a timeline for the changes at Buchanan Boulevard and Nevada Way — dedicated turning lanes, a pedestrian-activated crossing light and a widened median, he said.

To help congestion in the area, a lane turning right from Nevada Way in downtown Boulder City onto U.S. 93 toward Lake Mead will be a dedicated turn lane. The lane left of the turn lane would be dedicated traffic continuing straight onto Nevada Highway.

After the change, lane turning right onto Nevada Highway from U.S. 93 will no longer merge with oncoming traffic until past the intersection.

Councilman Mike Pacini said he was concerned the switch from two lanes of through traffic to one would cause traffic backups on Nevada Way.

Director of Public Works Scott Hansen said some motorists might have to sit through two light cycles at the intersection, possibly backing up vehicles as far as Fir Street.

Hansen will work with the RTC to explore other access roads for neighborhoods which take U.S. 93 into town.

The council will also ask the commission to find a way to install a traffic light at Yucca Street and Nevada Highway. NDOT had said the intersection did not qualify for a traffic light.

Hansen said he has met since December with six homeowners associations, most of which criticized possible roads through their neighborhoods to make it easier for their residents to get in and out.

Those residents will now wait and see how truck traffic in two years affects their commutes before roadway improvements are designed to redirect traffic. The council agreed none of the four access roads or two bridge solutions were worth installing before the bypass bridge is completed.

"None of us really knows the impact of this truck traffic until a week after starts coming into town," Mayor Roger Tobler said.

Councilwoman Andrea Anderson said the council needed more information first.

"It seems to me we're trying to be proactive, but I don't think we've found the right solution," she said. "I'm afraid we're not going to know until we see the traffic, how much and how it impacts everybody."

Petrenko told the council a potential overpass extending Lake Mountain Drive across U.S. 93 would possibly take away from funding for the Boulder City Bypass.

The council will also ask NDOT to reconsider an "acceleration lane" at Lakeview Drive, where residents merge onto U.S. 93.

Councilwoman Linda Strickland said residents who use that intersection have difficulty quickly reaching speeds of highway drivers coming from Lake Mead.

City Manager Vicki Mayes said NDOT had considered a new lane before, but drainage channel alignments are too close to the highway to extend the lanes.

Councilman Travis Chandler said the city should limit smaller improvements to preserve funding for the bypass.

Cassie Tomlin can be reached at 948-2073 or [email protected].

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