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Brace for another 15 months of Summerlin Parkway work

If you’re committed to traveling Summerlin Parkway on any kind of regular basis, then get used to ongoing traffic snafus, humongous construction equipment, endless lines of orange cones, single-lane traffic and, of course, stop-and-go delays. And it’s going to be that way for another 15 months or so.

But above all, don’t let driving Summerlin Parkway these days jump-start an attack of frenzy, the kind of temperament that brings on road rage. That’s because something worthwhile awaits us on the other side of the rainbow — “a super roadway that will help traffic to flow easier and much safer,” promises Mike Janssen, manager of the city’s Transportation Engineering Division.

Janssen should know. He’s the guy who helped design the three phases of improvements for the 5.3-mile thoroughfare that cuts through the heart of Summerlin, the onetime “country road” that can be credited most for helping to develop the northwest sector of Las Vegas. A study conducted last year by Janssen’s office found that there have been scores of accidents over the last six years — unfortunately some with deadly results — as the flow of vehicles steadily increased with the urbanization of Summerlin.

Among the many beneficiaries of the improvements will be the retailers and restaurateurs at Downtown Summerlin, as well as the continuing development of the second leg of that project. Another will be the ongoing development of the master plan for Summerlin, together with the construction of new neighborhoods elsewhere in northwest Las Vegas.

“We knew that something had to be done, and the sooner the better. And we’re doing just that in the form of this three-phase, 18-month program of highway improvement,” Janssen said.

He added that the overall project, which began in June and is estimated to cost $10 million, will provide numerous benefits for motorists when completed before the end of 2017. But high on the list is highway safety and the kinds of road configurations that will place a priority on improving the flow of traffic.

Opened in small sections since 1989 and completed by 2004, the parkway was viewed by early residents of Summerlin, and especially by commuters, as a scenic country road connecting Summerlin to U.S. Highway 95. It has since grown into the busiest intra-city thoroughfare in Las Vegas. But with increased volume comes an uptick in accidents. The result will be an innovative improvement that Janssen refers to as phase one.

“We’re installing a cable barrier to avoid the kinds of median crossover accidents that have become too plentiful,” he said.

The barrier, made of high-tension steel cable with a flexibility designed to repel serious injury and damage, will replace concrete barriers and the grass and shrubbery that serve as medians in some areas.

The distance is about 4.4 miles, resulting in a total of almost nine miles of new cable barrier. The flex cable concept meets the highest standards of the Federal Highway Administration and the Nevada Department of Transportation, which is providing funding for the project.

The second phase, scheduled to begin later this fall – before completion of phase one — will take about six months and will result in a third left-turn lane coming off the westbound side of the parkway onto South Rampart Boulevard.

“That exit has become one of the heaviest-traveled sections of Summerlin Parkway,” Janssen noted. “But that’s not all. It will also involve an auxiliary lane, which will become a third lane on westbound Summerlin Parkway from near the Durango overpass to the Rampart exit ramp.”

Phase two will also include extension of the westbound HOV lane from U.S. Highway 95 to Durango Drive. The lane for multi-occupied vehicles now ends at Buffalo Drive.

“Before phase two wraps up some time next spring, we’ll begin phase three, which will involve new auxiliary lanes between the on- and off-ramps at Town Center Drive and the on- and off-ramps at Rampart Boulevard,” Janssen said. “We’ll also build an auxiliary lane from northbound 215 to Anasazi Drive, so motorists can avoid the merge onto eastbound Summerlin Parkway.”

Indeed, Summerlin Parkway will no longer be viewed as a “country road.”

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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