Funds for widening parkway tapped to make safety fixes


Summerlin Parkway was built more than 20 years ago, and the Road to Nowhere, as it was dubbed before housing went up, now handles more than 20,000 vehicles per day.

A crossover accident, meaning the vehicle crossed the median and ended up in oncoming traffic, saw two people killed Feb. 5 just west of Rampart Boulevard.

The city of Las Vegas was asked to perform a traffic study to evaluate the need for some type of barrier. It appears the city is leaning toward a cable system to prevent future crossover accidents.

“Community safety has always been one of the most important elements in master-planning Summerlin,” said Tom Warden, senior vice president for community and government relations for The Howard Hughes Corp. “The parkway itself was planned, approved and built using all appropriate safety standards at the time. Now that those standards have evolved, we support the city of Las Vegas in its efforts to provide additional protection for parkway motorists.”

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada on April 10 appropriated about $4.1 million for Summerlin Parkway safety measures. The sum represented a portion of funds that were intended for the Summerlin Parkway Widening Project.

Since the funding necessary for the original project ($60 million) will not be available for many years, the city requested permission to use the money for interim traffic safety improvements, including the addition of a median barrier treatment where appropriate.

“They’re going to be building two cable barriers,” said Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers. “I’ve seen the artist’s renditions. It’s close to the travel lane, and should someone start to cross into the median, it would slow them down and pull them into the guard rail. There are going to be two of them, as I understand it, one on each side.

“It’s the only standard that our staff could find that describes whether or not a previously built road, how it should be retrofitted, and the Summerlin Parkway does not meet the criteria under that standard. It turns out, oddly enough, although we’ve had a number of horrific accidents, when you look at the volume of accidents that occur in traffic in general, the Summerlin Parkway is lower than most, in part, because that median stops most vehicles.”

The width of the median is between 24 and 50 feet.

The traffic study shed light on the number of lane departure crashes where a vehicle lost control and ended up in the median. That type of accident occurred 68 times in the last five years and resulted in four fatalities and 33 injuries.

The study also said, “… 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 NDOT’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 of injuries associated with lane departure crashes and significantly reduce median cross-over crashes.”

A review of permanent traffic count stations along Summerlin Parkway and maintained at traffic.com shows the approximate two-way weekday traffic volumes along Summerlin Parkway: west of U.S. Highway 95, 101,000; east of Durango Drive, 96,000; west of Rampart Boulevard, 66,000; west of Town Center Drive, 41,000; and west of Anasazi Drive, 17,000.

Beers said the planned fall opening of the Downtown Summerlin shopping center and new development will put more demand on the Summerlin Parkway, so widening that road would likely be revisited and an extra lane added eventually in each direction.

“It may intrude on the median,” Beers said of the additional lane. “…But I think that’s one of the reasons why that median was built so broadly. But the median is no longer what would be relied on to prevent accidents. Once that cable is installed, then the cable is what will prevent crossover accidents. So, with the cable, you can very safely convert portions of the median to additional traffic lanes.”

Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

 

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