Improvements on the way for accident-prone Summerlin Parkway


Remember the accident on Summerlin Parkway back in February, when two travelers in a Toyota sedan died after being hit by a pickup truck that crossed the median near Rampart Boulevard? You may also recall that the truck driver, who was the only survivor in the mishap, was found to be DUI.

And do you remember the outrage expressed by relatives and friends of the two who were killed in the accident, and from many others, demanding that the city provide better safety measures along Summerlin Parkway?

What’s more, do you remember the statement given to this column by Las Vegas city spokesman Jace Radke soon after the accident? “We have referred those requests to the mayor’s office. They’re in the hands of our traffic engineers,” he said.

Sometimes that’s a nice way of putting a deep six on a request. But not this time. The city acted swiftly, and so did traffic engineers in the Public Works Department. The result is that changes for the better along Summerlin Parkway are on the way.

According to a Summerlin Parkway Traffic Study report, written by Mike Janssen, assistant city traffic engineer:

“Based upon a review of the existing Summerlin Parkway median characteristics and its five-year crash data, a review of nationwide guidance on the use of median barriers, a review of the state of Nevada Strategic Highway Safety Plan, and (the Nevada Department of Transportation’s) benefit/cost analysis, it is recommended that an investment in a cable median barrier rail be made along the limits of the Summerlin Parkway median.

“This type of improvement has been proven nationwide to reduce the severity associated with lane-departure crashes and significantly reduce median-crossover crashes.”

The report said that “the primary purpose of a median barrier is to prevent cross-median collisions,” such as the one that occurred in February. “The study found that this type of collision has occurred three times in the last five years.”

The study also uncovered “a high number of lane-departure crashes where a vehicle lost control and ended up in the median. This type of collision occurred 68 times in the last five years and resulted in four fatalities and 33 injuries.”

However, in an effort to avoid median-crossover accidents, the report recommended that the city install a median barrier system along the city’s portion of Summerlin Parkway. The city owns 4.4 miles of the 5.3-mile parkway. The Transportation Department and Clark County are responsible for portions of the remaining stretch of road.

The median barrier would be installed on both the eastbound and westbound sides of the city’s portion of the parkway, totaling 8.8 miles. It would consist of three or four horizontal lines of heavy, flexible cable. Each line would be separated from the next horizontal line by approximately 12 inches, and each would connect to posts at intervals, affording a spring-like effect to minimize the force and support the weight of any vehicle.

In summary, the study recommends that “Summerlin Parkway be retrofitted with a median barrier system to help reduce the severity of injuries associated with lane-departure crashes and help prevent cross-median collisions from occurring in the future.”

But that’s not all. “We found that the Rampart Boulevard westbound exit off of Summerlin Parkway has become very congestive, and improvements to help modify traffic in that area are also in the works,” Janssen said in an interview.

He explained the changes will result in a new lane, totaling about half a mile, from the Durango Drive overpass to Rampart Boulevard. It will be added only to the westbound portion of Summerlin Parkway.

In addition, “the ramp terminal on Rampart Boulevard will have a third left-turn lane, extending from the new auxiliary road exiting the parkway,” Janssen explained.

A plan to widen Summerlin Parkway, at a cost of $60 million, had been put on hold several years ago because of the economic downturn. However, the report said, “on April 10, 2014, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada was able to release some of those funds, approximately $4.1 million,” because of improvements in the local economy.

“Costs of the median barrier, the auxiliary lane and the additional left turn at Rampart Boulevard will not exceed $4.1 million,” Janssen promised.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.