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HOV lane scofflaws keep bugging along

Don't they make you mad, those ineligible high-occupancy-vehicle lane scofflaws who treat the special diamond lane as just another travel lane?

They dart in and out of traffic, apparently oblivious to the purpose the lane is supposed to serve.

It definitely upsets Warrior reader Byram. Check this out:

"I am retired but occasionally find myself traveling on southbound U.S. Highway 95 during the morning rush hour. I have noted that especially between the exits at Craig Road and Summerlin Parkway, when traffic is slow, there is a high percentage (easily over 50 percent) of driver-only vehicles traveling in the high-occupancy-vehicle lane during the enforced hours (especially between the hours of 8 and 9 a.m.).

"It appears that this situation has gotten out of hand, as evidenced by the high percentage of drivers in violation, due to a failure of law enforcement to police this issue. Why are these violators allowed to break the law and zip along at highway speeds while others are stuck in stop-and-go traffic? The frustration levels are high and I believe that this creates a potentially dangerous situation.

"While I am a believer in HOV lanes as a tool to encourage drivers to carpool, if the law is not going to be enforced, I strongly recommend that these areas of highway be undesignated as HOV so that all drivers can benefit from the additional lane of traffic."

In light of Byram's impression that the Highway Patrol ignores HOV violations, the first thing I asked trooper Loy Hixson was, "Can you write citations to violators?"

"We can," Hixson said. "When an HOV lane is clearly marked and posted, a motorist in violation can be cited for disregarding a traffic control device, a moving violation."

Hixson said it's easy to understand why there are so many violations.

"People driving the freeway are on a fast route and are often running late so they cut corners," he said. "There's a misconception that the left lane is the fast lane."

The reality is that the far left lane, marked by a diamond and separated from other traffic lanes with a solid white line, is for motorists who have two or more occupants in the vehicle. The lane is to be used by vehicles with two or more people Mondays through Fridays from 6 to 10 a.m. and from 2 to 7 p.m.

Outside those time frames, they can be used by any vehicle.

Those lanes on U.S. 95 are different from the separate lanes on Interstate 15, south of Sahara Avenue — but all of that is going to change in the years ahead.

The lanes separated from other traffic by a double white line are express lanes, designed for motorists to avoid traffic exiting along the busy resort corridor.

South of the Interstate 15 and Las Vegas Beltway interchange, the express lanes turn from two lanes to a single lane, marked with a solid white line.

The rules of the road for the express lane are easy: If there's a double solid line, don't cross it. If the lane is marked with dotted lines, it's OK to cross over. That occurs for about a mile south of Tropicana Avenue.

The changes on the horizon will occur with the construction of Project Neon. The U.S. 95 HOV lane will lead to a flyover bridge, similar to the one along the center of the U.S. 95 Summerlin Parkway exit. Eventually, the HOV lane will extend south from the Spaghetti Bowl, and there will even be a dedicated exit exclusively for HOV use south of the Charleston Boulevard exit.

There are as many express lane rule ignorers as there are HOV ignorers, and they're just as irritating.

Catching those violators is obviously a low-priority exercise for the Highway Patrol. But wouldn't it be great to see those guys nailed once in a while?

I'm with Byram. If there's no appetite to enforce the law, get rid of it.

Blue Diamond work

I don't know how they do it, but there is a large number of people who commute on a regular basis between Pahrump and Las Vegas, using state Route 160 to get to and from work.

The trip can be treacherous because it can snow at the Mountain Springs summit, and not a month goes by that there isn't some serious accident on the way.

Warrior reader Tony wants to know about some upcoming improvements:

"Do you have info on when they will begin widening the section of the highway from the Blue Diamond Road turn to Mountain Springs?"

The "Blue Diamond" turn is a key intersection because it's a shortcut to the north side of the valley along state Route 159, which passes Red Rock Canyon and eventually becomes West Charleston Boulevard. It also passes by the community of Blue Diamond, so technically, Blue Diamond Road from Interstate 15 west continues onto state Route 159.

So Warrior reader Tony, meet Nevada Department of Transportation spokesman Tony — Tony Illia, that is — who responds:

"The Nevada Department of Transportation recently awarded a $16.5 million contract to general contractor Aggregate Industries for a five-mile widening of Blue Diamond Road or state Route 160 in southwest Clark County. The project will widen the highway from two lanes to four travel lanes between the Red Rock Canyon Road junction and Mile Marker 16.

"Improvements include flattening the side slope shoulders for safer vehicle turnouts and installing new drainage pipe and tortoise fencing. Other work consists of placing barrier and guardrails as well as hydro-seeding 38 acres. The project is scheduled for completion in early 2017, which, coincidentally, is when the next phase will begin.

"Part 2 entails a 5.6-mile widening from two to four travel lanes between Mile Marker 16 and the base of Mountain Springs. Construction is estimated to cost between $45 million and $60 million. We're working with the state Department of Wildlife to install a wildlife crossing, too, as part of the project. The highway enhancements will tentatively finish in 2019."

Questions and comments should be sent to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number. Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter: @RJroadwarrior

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