Asphalt-rubber roads are greener, but they wear down faster

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a popular time to take a few days off, especially for government types. Fortunately Nevada Department of Transportation’s Scott Magruder was kicking around his Carson City office this week so we could hit him up with a few of your questions.

Art asks: I heard the state of Nevada used to use recycled tires in the asphalt on the roads? Does the state still use tires and, if not, why not?

Actually, Art, the state has toyed around with the material commonly referred to as asphalt-rubber, but the Department of Transportation has never committed to using it statewide. Magruder, spokesman for the transportation agency, acknowledged that the use of reclaimed tire rubber is “greener” and cheaper than oil-based materials, especially with the cost of oil going up. For those reasons, the state plans to look into how effective that type of surface might be in Las Vegas.

A chief concern is the heat and traffic volumes on Las Vegas freeways. The combination of those two might not be ideal for asphalt-rubber roads, which wear down faster. Magruder said that when the agency repaves a freeway, the hope is that it won’t need to be done again for about 12 years, saving taxpayer’s money. The rubbery roads might be cheaper in the short term, but won’t be if they need to be replaced every five years.

The material is certainly more environmentally friendly — according to the Rubber Pavements Association, a one-mile lane with a 2-inch thick overlay would consume about 2,000 tires. The state might take a look at using the material on less-traveled thoroughfares.

Steve is confused: Why are there so many signs with different names for the 215? I’ve seen Clark County 215, the Bruce Woodbury Beltway and Interstate 215. Whose roadway is it, the county’s or the state’s and why are there so many names? It’s confusing.

No doubt it’s confusing, Steve. Before we get to the roadway’s multiple personalities, let’s start off with some history. Clark County built the 53-mile beltway that encircles about three-fourths of the Las Vegas Valley. Back in the 1990s, the county embarked on the project, partly because it could do it faster than the state because it didn’t need to undergo as many environmental impact studies or meet the standards imposed on state agencies. Clark County was actually the first in the country to fund and construct an interstate highway using mostly local funds.

Now to Steve’s question: The state maintains the roadway between Highway 95 in Henderson and where the beltway meets up with Cheyenne Avenue west of town because that stretch has been upgraded to meet federal interstate highway standards. Signs on that segment often say Interstate 215 or Bruce Woodbury Beltway.

The county maintains the remaining portion of the beltway, which is more like an expressway. When it is upgraded, the state will take over that leg too.

The road was initially called the Las Vegas Beltway, but some signs and maps also referred to it as CC 215 (Clark County 215). In 2004, the Clark County Commission voted to name it the Bruce Woodbury Beltway, after Woodbury, a longtime member of the board.

Don doesn’t want to talk and drive: Has anyone suggested that special spots be designated for cell phone users? Places where they can pull over so they can talk on a cell phone or return an important call? Maybe just some designated parking spots, or a pull-off area on a freeway or highway or maybe like a bus stop pullout area? I see people using cell phones on the freeway all the time. Would they pull off to speak to a friend, thereby saving maybe their life or another’s?

There are no plans to create pull-outs along freeways to allow motorists to use their phones. Anytime the transportation division builds a rest area, for example, it has to include onramps and offramps that safely guide traffic off and on the freeway. That is expensive and that is exactly what the agency would have to do to provide a safe space for motorists to pull over, otherwise slipping to the side of the freeway for a quick chat would be as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than talking on a cell phone in the first place.

“We’re not going to spend money to create areas where people can pull over and yap on the phone,” Magruder said. “Besides, where would you have them and how many would you have?”

If you need to make or take an important call, Magruder suggests getting off at the nearest exit.

As we all know, talking on a cell phone while driving is still legal in this state, but that might change after the next legislative session. Several bill draft proposals have been submitted addressing the issue.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call Adrienne Packer at (702) 387-2904, or send an e-mail to Include your phone number.

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