No Beltway traffic in Sun City's backyard


I was driving to Robert Hall's home this week, and I couldn't help but wonder if the trip would be faster if the Las Vegas Beltway's interchange with Lake Mead Boulevard was opened.

Much to the chagrin of Hall, I'll probably get a chance to find out sooner rather than later.

Despite the efforts of Hall and other Sun City residents, a retirement community in the west end of the valley, there's a good chance the recently constructed $12.4 million interchange will be opened to public use.

An uproar over the unused interchange exploded a few weeks back in the form of letters and calls after the public learned that the County Commission had authorized the building of the interchange but also agreed years ago not to open it until 2010 to appease Sun City residents.

Many valley residents, including people who live in the area, clamored with displeasure upon learning about the commission's decision.

Responding to those pleas, Commissioners Chip Maxfield and Susan Brager are calling for a vote to open the Las Vegas Beltway interchange with Lake Mead Boulevard.

That vote will take place Tuesday morning. (For anybody who wants to attend the commission meeting, it's at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday in commission chambers at the Clark County Government Center, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway.)

But before the vote and whatever hullabaloo accompanies Tuesday's commission meeting, I wanted to understand more why Sun City neighbors are against opening the interchange.

The 74-year-old Hall, one of the most outspoken residents on the issue, said it all goes back to when he bought his home in 1996.

Hall contends that he and his neighbors were betrayed by the county and the developer of Sun City. They were told that the senior community would be safe from the Beltway when they bought their properties, he said.

"My problem with it is they didn't tell us," Hall said.

"We bought into a peaceful community. We bought into a lifestyle. Three golf courses. Four rec (recreational) centers. Peace and quiet. A homogeneous place where the roads are safe," Hall said.

Once the interchange opens, Hall fears Lake Mead will become a metal and bone crunching death zone, where grandmas driving below the speed limit are crushed by racing speed demons.

"You've got blind curves (on Lake Mead), and you've got people who are elderly driving. They don't have the reactions like a 20-year-old."

Currently, Lake Mead and the surrounding roads don't see motorists driving more than the 35 mph limit. Golf carts routinely glide along slowly on main thoroughfares such as Thomas W. Ryan Boulevard.

Hall doesn't know how many people will show up on Tuesday to protest the opening of the interchange. He predicted the commission probably will vote to open the onramps and offramps.

He believes the only recourse for him and his neighbors is in the courts.

Hall is already at the heart of a lawsuit against the county that he's appealing in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hall believes the entire Beltway was built illegally because it does not have a federal environmental impact statement, even though Hall says federal lands and rights of way were used to build the road.

The county disagrees because only it paid for the roadway.

"The law entitles us to this environmental process," Hall said. "We've been cheated out of this process."

Although Hall's concerns of dangerous traffic may be legitimate, chances are that the motorists who will use the Lake Mead interchange already use the roadway; they just have to go the long way around to get on the Beltway.

There are ways to make drivers slow down.

Traffic lights appear ready to be installed at the intersection of Lake Mead and Thomas W. Ryan, the first major intersection near the interchange.

Community concern over dangerous drivers probably would draw a strong show of enforcement by the Metropolitan Police Department come the opening of the interchange.

Regardless of how Sun City neighbors feel, this is a mistake that needs to be corrected Tuesday.

There are far too many arguments for opening the interchange for the greater good, including wasted taxpayer money, shorter commute times for working folks and easy access for emergency workers.

For now, though, the interchange sits idle, blocked by an excess of orange cones and unmarked by the wear from rubber tires.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call the Road Warrior at 387-2904, or e-mail him at roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com or fmccabe@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number.

 

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