The high-occupancy vehicle lanes on portions of Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 95 in Las Vegas have kept state Highway Patrol troopers busy during the first month of policing them.
Between June 20 and July 20, Nevada Highway Patrol troopers gave out 518 HOV lane violation citations, the department announced Tuesday. The NHP carried out multiple HOV lane saturation enforcement events during that time.
The 22 miles of new carpool lanes opened May 20, part of the nearly $1 billion Project Neon. NHP gave motorists a 30-day grace period before it started citing drivers for lane violations.
NHP didn’t provide a breakdown of the violations drivers were cited for, which can include driving with less than two occupants, having a vehicle with more than two axles or crossing the solid white lines, among other violations.
“As far as crossing the solid white lines, there is currently no data for this violation because the statute disregarding a traffic control device is commonly written to cover other violations like running red lights, stop signs, yield signs,” said NHP spokesman Jason Buratczuk in a statement.
Motorists are required to enter and exit the carpool lanes where dotted white lines are present on the roadway or face the possibility of being cited by law enforcement and a $250 fine.
The department since has corrected the way it cites crossing the solid white line of an HOV lane and will start collecting data on the infraction, which should be available in the coming months, Buratczuk said.
The Las Vegas City Council has been adamant it would reduce HOV violation citations processed in its court.
The Municipal Court has received 254 HOV violation-related cases since the carpool lane enforcement began on June 20, according to Jace Radke, city spokesman. Of those, eight HOV tickets have been dismissed, 159 are pending disposition, and 87 saw guilty pleas from the cited party, Radke said.
Clark County representatives didn’t respond to a request for their HOV violation case information.
Last week, the City Council passed a resolution brought forth by Councilman Stavros Anthony urging the state Transportation Department to end the 24/7 policing of the carpool lanes, in favor of peak hour enforcement.
City officials previously were told that the Nevada Department of Transportation wants at least three years to evaluate the lanes’ effectiveness before any tweaks are made.
With the council’s crusade to return HOV regulations to peak hour enforcement, NDOT has been flooded with calls, emails and social media messages from angry Las Vegas Valley drivers airing their displeasure with the 24/7 HOV lane regulations.
“Get rid of the HOV lane,” Twitter user ESol702 commented on a recent NDOT tweet. “It is worthless!”
Messages like that have the department on the defensive.
“Naysayers are reducing Project Neon down to HOV lanes alone, discarding everything else,” said Tony Illia, NDOT spokesman.
While the HOV lanes have received the bulk of the attention related to Project Neon, the largest public works project in state history, NDOT pointed out that many other additions and upgrades were constructed during the over the three-year project.
Illia pointed out that 63 lane miles of concrete and asphalt paving were laid, plus 29 new bridges and 10 miles of drainage improvements were built.
Also, new north-south surface street connections were created, aimed at reducing congestion and increasing access into downtown Las Vegas, including connecting Western Avenue to Charleston Boulevard.
And a new bridge that allows motorists to travel over the Union Pacific railroad tracks on Industrial Road from Wyoming Avenue to Charleston Boulevard was created as part of Project Neon.
Other upgrades, including new freeway onramps and surface street connections, are also part of the project. The 42 Active Traffic Management signs — currently undergoing testing — are set to go online in the coming weeks. They are aimed at improving the efficiency and reliability of the freeways, reducing travel delays and providing motorist safety benefits.
The Project Neon upgrades come as traffic through the corridor is expected to double over the next two decades.
Although the HOV lanes were not well-received early on, Illia urges motorists to give the department time as it collects and studies data and usage of the lanes.
“Although carpooling is nothing new to the millions of visitors and transplants that now make Southern Nevada home, it’s still unfamiliar for many local motorists,” he said. “As such, a period of gradual driver orientation and acclimation is expected before gaining widespread acceptance. However, we are encouraged by the slow but steady uptick in HOV usership since first being introduced two months ago.”
A “Grand Finale” event marking the end of Project Neon is slated to occur Aug. 8.