It all depends on how you define 'modern'


His head still spinning, the Road Warrior opens this week's questions-answers with a clarification to last week's mention that Summerlin debuted the first modern roundabout in the United States in 1990.

Last week's history lesson on these roadway oddities, also known as traffic circles or rotaries, drew quite a response from readers who said either politely or pointedly, some with a wagging, tsk-tsking finger, "You got it wrong, Road Warrior. The first modern roundabout in the U.S. was in ..."

"Boston." Or "south Jersey." Or "central Michigan." Or "Illinois." Or "Portland, Ore." Or "Long Beach, Calif."

These readers pointed to communities where they once lived or visited that had roundabouts predating the ones in Summerlin, some by as much as 90 years.

The key term here, of course, is "modern" - defined in 1990 as having marked lanes and posted speed limits.

Exhaustive Road Warrior research ("exhaustive" serves the Road Warrior well as an excuse for a midafternoon nap) found that most early roundabouts had neither lanes nor limits. A few had signs for advisory speeds, but mostly it was gentlemanly courtesy among drivers with slower, clunkier cars that made them work.

The first ones in Summerlin, on Town Center Drive near TPC Summerlin and near Summerlin Hospital, have lane markings and speed limits of 15 mph. The one near the hospital also has safety curbing to better direct motorists entering and exiting.

Although some readers complained that roundabouts are "too confusing to be safe," a recent half-hour of driving the two in Summerlin found that most motorists were familiar with their use, understanding how to enter, exit and yield to other traffic, as needed.

Those who appeared to be confused exercised due safety, even if meant going around twice - at less-than-dizzying speeds - to get their proper bearings.

Eileen has a concern/question that has caught the attention of all valley motorists at some point: "I'm noticing more and more people panhandling at intersections and freeway offramps. It's not for me to judge whether they should be there or not, but I'm worried about the safety issue when they start walking into lanes, between cars, with little to no regard to traffic around them. What does the police recommend as how best to handle this danger?"

Like Eileen, the Road Warrior becomes the Road Worrier when he encounters people darting between cars at intersections. So he checked with Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Officer Jose Hernandez, who advised:

"Always proceed with caution. For the most part, these people stand on the sidewalks holding a sign and they're of no concern to drivers or police. But on occasion you'll see them walking between cars or running over to a car in the far lane where money is being offered. That's where you have to be careful. People who continually walk in traffic are breaking the law, and if we see them, we will cite them for a misdemeanor.

"Also on the topic, if you see someone asking for money who makes you feel uncomfortable, keep your window rolled up and do not engage that person in conversation. If you become really concerned, you can call and alert us."

Neil is frustrated by what he sees as a lack of expeditious work on the addition of a fourth lane to Interstate 215, east of Interstate 15: "I don't understand why this is taking so long. It seems like there's a skeleton crew that works when it feels like it. This should have been wrapped up inside of two months, easy. We have an existing freeway, with existing pavement for a fourth lane, an existing right-of-way and no other obstacles except a few bridges to span. ... Do you know how much longer this will be?"

The Road Warrior reminds Neil that patience is a virtue, and there's no question that this work, part of the McCarran International Airport connector project that runs through January 2014, requires drivers to be patient. Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin explains: "The sequence of the work and the construction schedule is intended to be efficient, safe and cost-effective. For detailed information, drivers can go to the project website at airportconnectorlv.com."

David, too, is frustrated - but more so over the safety of drivers and pedestrians who use Decatur Boulevard between Warm Springs and Blue Diamond roads. He says the route is dangerous, especially with so many drivers using it as an alternative to Interstate 15 from Interstate 215 to reach Blue Diamond and points beyond: "For starters, Decatur goes from six lanes north of the Warm Springs intersection, to two lanes within 100 yards to the south of the intersection. From there, it's a hodgepodge of various widths and lane configurations that do not suit the traffic volume. Some drivers create their own special lane by passing on the shoulder or in the dirt and gravel. Do you know of any plans to fix this travesty of engineering?"

Help is coming, David - but you, too, will have to be patient. Says the county's Kulin: "This year, we will be working on designing this to be four lanes with a center lane/median. Construction should begin in early 2014."

Rodney wonders about the start and completion dates of a road project that impacts the Mountain's Edge master planned community: "There is a portion of Rainbow Boulevard, between Mountain's Edge Parkway and Erie Avenue, that does not exist. When I inquire of the Mountain's Edge association, I'm told the work is to start in mid-2013 and will be completed by the end of 2013. That's a vague answer for those of us who travel in and out of this community daily."

The county's Kulin steps up again, as best he can: "The Mountain's Edge development is constructing half-street improvements on Rainbow south of Mountain's Edge Parkway to Erie. This is a development project, so they would make their own schedule."

If you have traffic questions or gripes, email them to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Please be specific, and include your phone number. Not all questions can be answered in print. Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter: @RJroadwarrior.

 

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