New Year’s Eve makes for tricky commutes

The post-holidays have their own traditions: leftover eggnog, clearance sales and some that vary from family to family.

The weekly Road Warrior tradition is to answer questions, but the holidays bring a hectic quality to the roads of the Las Vegas Valley that should probably be addressed. So, in keeping with tradition, we’ll answer one question and move on to different things.

Greg had a question about some random pipes sticking out of a road on the west side of the valley.

“When driving north on Jones Boulevard the first part of the left turn lane that will take you westbound on Desert Inn Road is blocked off due to huge pipes coming out of the street. If my memory serves me right, those pipes have been there for quite some time. Are there any plans to correct that situation in the near future?”

The transportation department just recently had some of that intersection closed so the Clark County Water Reclamation District could work on it, Greg.

Those mysterious pipes you saw were part of rehabilitation work on manholes in that intersection. I’m not exactly sure what “manhole rehabilitation” is and am not sure I want to know — it sounds potentially smelly. But it’s finished now, so happy holidays — you have your turn lane back.

There are, however, many roads and lanes that will be inaccessible for valley residents and visitors soon.

That would be thanks to New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas, which is a pretty big annual production.

What’s important to remember: avoid the Strip in your car.

If you plan to head there to celebrate, bring your hiking boots.

From one end of the Strip to the other, vehicular access will be minimal.

Las Vegas Boulevard will be blocked between Sahara Avenue and Russell Road starting about 6 p.m.

Interstate 15 on and off-ramps will be closed at Spring Mountain Road, Flamingo Road and Tropicana Avenue starting at 5 p.m. Dec. 31 until the first dawn of the new year.

Sahara Avenue, Russell Road, Desert Inn Road, Frank Sinatra Drive and Koval Lane will be open and the best routes to drive, according to Las Vegas police.

If you’re on the Strip celebrating New Year’s Eve, you can subscribe to safety and traffic updates from Las Vegas police by texting “info” to 702-800-6776.

Something else that should be remembered as a common issue in Las Vegas after the holidays (aside from aching feet and hangovers) is traffic on I-15 South. Some of us are probably still reeling from the delays on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, which Nevada Highway Patrol troopers said lasted several hours.

Next year, there may be a way to predict, and potentially avoid, that dreaded I-15 traffic.

The Regional Transportation Commission administrates an organization called FAST — Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation. It controls things like traffic light timing, freeway cameras and ramp meters.

In February, the installation of 15 traffic cameras, 46 detectors and 10 travel signs on I-15 between Silverado Ranch Boulevard and the California state line was completed and FAST began monitoring holiday traffic patterns.

Anyone want to guess how many vehicles were recorded the Sunday after we stuffed ourselves full of turkey?

A whopping 51,888. Ouch.

“Thanksgiving was a monster,” Brian Hoeft, the director of FAST, agreed. He said it takes about 34,000 vehicles to really start slowing down traffic.

The detectors, which are mounted on poles, were described by Hoeft as looking like “little spatulas.” They are placed every third of a mile and count vehicles, detect their speed and measure their length. The detectors are what compute the travel times on the electronic signs above the freeway.

Hoeft said FAST, the Transportation Department and Highway Patrol will all work together during post-New Year’s traffic to keep things flowing smoothly.

But with an anticipated 300,000 people celebrating the beginning of 2014, no matter how prepared everyone is, odds are against the drive home being smooth. My personal coping mechanism for that tedious stretch of road is audiobooks. It passes the time and soothes the road rage.

We can at least hope that FAST’s charts and statistics from this year will help commuters next year plan their trips home.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, send an email to Include your phone number.

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