Sometimes you just can't win.
At least that is how Nevada Department of Transportation planners orchestrating the massive repaving job on Interstate 15 are beginning to feel.
When the agency announced its repaving endeavor and explained that crews would be on the state's busiest freeway 24/7 for the first three days of each week, motorists nearly lost their marbles. Who would ever believe it is a good idea to choke down what is essentially the only north-south corridor in the Las Vegas Valley during the week?
Drivers shook their fists as crews spread rubberized asphalt across the freeway's surface, causing backups and creating nightmarish commutes.
Fine, some who travel to the downtown area from the southeast valley thought, U.S. Highway 95 would be an ideal alternative route. Not so fast, the folks at the Nevada Department of Transportation responded as they threw up orange barrels on that highway too in order to fix the Flamingo Road overpass.
Upset that both freeways were under construction, plenty of drivers contacted the transportation division and asked why the work on Interstate 15 couldn't take place on the weekends when far fewer than 250,000 vehicles a day travel the freeway.
Maybe those drivers should be careful with their wishes. Now the department has decided to add next weekend -- in addition to the weekdays -- to its paving schedule.
Fisher Sand & Gravel workers will embark on round-the-clock paving of the interstate's middle lanes, meaning that it is likely only one travel lane in each direction will be open next weekend. The southbound lane is first on the agenda Saturday morning, and then the middle northbound lane will be blanketed with a fresh coat of crumb rubber Sunday.
In the meantime, the Nevada Department of Transportation has challenged us to find alternative routes until the project is completed at the end of the month.
I challenge the department to find one major road in town that doesn't host orange cones and barrels at some point.
It is somewhat startling considering our state is supposedly flat-out broke, but you can't turn the corner without bumping into a road construction project. They always seem to sprout up during this time of year; it's as predictable as springtime wildflowers.
So, what gives?
Several government entities are eager to dig into the roadways for various reasons: Clark County, the city of Las Vegas, the Water Reclamation District, the Regional Transportation Commission. The list goes on.
The weather and funding patterns usually dictate when road projects can be done. Not surprisingly, they typically happen at the same time.
"It's just the nature of the beast," NDOT spokesman Scott Magruder said. "Part of it is stimulus money and part of it is the weather; you want to get it done."
Strings are attached to the federal funding, and the stimulus package does require that work be done quickly. Paving is also important, Magruder said, and the ideal time is when the weather is still warm at night.
"You want to go out and do maintenance before you have to do road reconstruction, which is much more expensive," Magruder said. "But now you have congested roads down to two lanes or even one lane, and people are frustrated because they don't know how to get around."
The transportation department opted for a "marathon" repaving job on I-15 so that the inconvenience to commuters would be limited to five weeks, rather than the three months it would take if the work was done during nighttime hours.
What the department might not have expected was the rain during the first week of the project, which caused delays and prompted the need for next weekend's 24-hour-a-day paving job.
With more rain predicted for next week, it wouldn't be surprising to see crews out on the freeways on more weekends.
At least we don't have to endure the 55-hour freeway closures dubbed "Carmageddon" in Southern California.
In the end, everybody who travels Interstate 15 frequently will be pleased with the outcome.
Consider this as evidence: There is a commuter who grumbled daily about the awful traffic, about what a waste of money the project was because the freeway was just fine before, even though it hadn't been paved since Bill Clinton was in office.
She sauntered into the office this morning, having driven on the newly surfaced portion, and marveled at the "silky smooth" ride.
Maybe the Department of Transportation can win after all.
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