Accessible In Case Of An Emergency

This week readers want to know about the construction work going on at Lone Mountain Road in the northwest valley and what those transponder boxes on our freeways are for. Also, the Road Warrior takes some flak for attacking the Golden State.

Diane asks: What is the construction on Lone Mountain Road near Grand Canyon Drive? There's a huge hole in the road, and I have to use a dirt path to get in and out of my housing complex. I and my fellow residents are worried that emergency vehicles might not be able to get in.

Well, Diane it's going to take about four more weeks before the work on Lone Mountain is done. Currently, Lone Mountain is closed between Park and Jensen streets, west of Fort Apache Road.

The work is part of an $8.9 million project that focuses on flood control improvements and sewer installation, said Debbie Ackerman, spokeswoman for the Las Vegas public works department.

Ackerman said the project started in September and should be completed in June.

I checked with the Las Vegas Fire Department about their ability to respond to an emergency in the area. Spokesman Tim Szymanski said the city does a good job of communicating with the Fire Department about projects such as the one on Lone Mountain. He said the information is listed in the 911 operators' computers and information about road disruptions would be transferred to computers on fire engines and ambulances responding to emergencies.

The firefighters would then be aware of what roads are closed and what alternate routes to use.

Szymanski said it's rare that the Fire Department doesn't know about road projects. He added that he couldn't recall the last time it happened.

Plus, Szymanski said, in that area, emergency vehicles would be responding from three different stations in three different directions, so if one got stuck in traffic the other two would still be there quickly.

Hope that gives you some confidence.

J.T. Cooper writes: All around the valley on Interstate 15, the Las Vegas Beltway and U.S. Highway 95, there are poles on the sides of the road with boxes attached to them. Some of these boxes are the size of a shoe box. Others are larger. At the top of the poles are solar panels or sometimes antennas. What are these boxes for, and what kind of information is the government collecting on us this time?

I've heard four explanations for these mysterious boxes.

The first is that the boxes were constructed by an alien race who are looking to harvest our brains, considered a special delicacy on planet Arous. Second, the boxes are used to scan the barcodes the government wants to have tattooed on our left forearms, to track our movements. (This idea does not seem very plausible because isn't that what Real ID is supposed to do?) Third, the boxes emit soothing elevator music, such as the "Macarena," when there is heavy traffic to help calm the road rage in all of us.

And finally, there is the most reasonable -- and best of all, true -- explanation. Herbert Arnold with Clark County traffic management said the boxes are traffic counters.

Arnold said the counters can be seen on the freeways and some surface streets. Some are powered by solar panels and use wireless communication, which explain the antennas. The other boxes are powered and communicate through cables, Arnold said.

Some are owned and operated by private venders and the others are run by government agencies, like the county, the Nevada Department of Transportation, the Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation or the various city public works departments, Arnold said.

Knowing how many vehicles are traveling certain roadways helps traffic planners make decisions, such as when to install traffic signals and other traffic control devices and when to widen a road.

And finally, Vicki took umbrage with my cheap shot last week on a Californian transplant who could not accept that vehicles are allowed to cross over the solid white line on U.S. 95 to get into the HOV lane.

Vicki wrote: "We've always thought (lived in California, Texas and now Nevada) that, in general, you should not cross a solid line (white or yellow). I did a quick Google search regarding solid white lines. In several states, crossing a single, solid white line is discouraged. So please don't denigrate all Californians."

That's a fair point. And I should also recognize the wonderful things that California has bestowed on society, such as rolling California stops, road rage, drive-by shootings, smog, Lakers fans and "the Governator" Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Sorry. I just can't help myself.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at or 702-387-2904.