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No Way To Bridge The Gap

This week, readers want to know when they’ll be able to escape the southwestern Las Vegas Valley, and whether it’s wise for bicyclists to be sharing a mountain with drivers.

And the Road Warrior finds a fool from the Golden State in the Silver State.

Kathleen asks: We live in a little pocket on the southwest side of the valley west of Interstate 15, south of Warm Springs Road, east of the railroad tracks and north of Blue Diamond Road. Ever since the Warm Springs bridge was attacked, we only have one way out of the area. How long will we be trapped in this pocket? If we could get some information when we’re going to be let out of prison, that would be helpful.

It’s quite a trap that’s been sprung on Kathleen and her neighbors, in the wake of a May truck crash that put the eastbound side of the Warm Springs bridge over I-15 out of commission. And it’s especially frustrating for Kathleen, who says she works at the Las Vegas Outlet mall at Las Vegas Boulevard and Warm Springs.

When the bridge was open, that was a 5-minute drive to work. Now, with the end-arounds, it’s more like 25 minutes.

The dilemma is not unique to that neighborhood. Throughout the valley, but especially in the southwest, new residential developments often spring up with just a handful of ways out, with those paths vulnerable to congestion or accidents. Promised secondary roads are often slow to come on-line.

The bad news for Kathy and friends is that it’s gonna be a while before the bridge reopens. June 23 is the best-case target date for reopening, according to Bob McKenzie, a Nevada Department of Transportation spokesman. "It’s a tough scar they put in that bridge," he said.

The fix is more complicated than those instances of potholes wearing their way through I-15 and U.S. Highway 95 overpasses in the past couple of years, where engineers simply had to fill the hole.

The Warm Springs bridge suffered structural damage, requiring engineers to evaluate the damage, design a fix and submit that plan for an expedited emergency bidding process, according to McKenzie.

That’s why there was a lack of action that Kathleen saw at the bridge over the Memorial Day weekend.

It’s hoped that work will start on the fix in the next few days.

"This is our biggest priority right now," McKenzie said. "We understand the frustration of the people that work and live out there. We are doing everything we can possibly do. We realize it’s a major inconvenience."

Simply put, you guys are hosed for a while, Kathy. The only good news is that the truck driver’s insurance company will be billed for the fix, for which a cost estimate was not immediately available.

Lonny Kofler asks: Driving up to Mount Charleston, my husband and I saw quite a few bicyclists on state Routes 157 and 158 (Deer Creek Highway and Kyle Canyon Road). While I can understand why a dedicated bicyclist would want to be there — it’s a beautiful ride — we thought it seemed to be a very dangerous situation. Should they be on the highway? It’s only two lanes. It’s very twisty. They can’t even pedal at 20 mph, and at the wrong place, someone could get killed.

Bicyclists are allowed to use any state or local road that offers unrestricted access via traditional intersections, side roads and driveways.

Restricted-access roads, where bicycles are banned, are those that limit entry and exit to interchanges, such as I-15 or U.S. 95.

Just like bicyclists have a right to be on residential streets, they can go on a state route, including those in mountainous areas that are more of a challenge to cyclist and driver alike.

"These are areas where people can go and get away from heavy traffic congestion. It’s where serious bicyclists can train," said Trooper Kevin Honea of the Nevada Highway Patrol.

Some more popular scenic bike routes are Routes 157, 158 and 159. State Route 159 extends from Charleston Boulevard to Red Rock Canyon.

It’s not necessarily the road that makes a path more or less dangerous. The onus is on both cyclist and driver to respect each other’s presence and drive or ride safely and cooperatively, according to Honea.

"For bicyclists, that means stay on the paved emergency shoulder whenever possible and out of the traffic lane. Make sure you’re dressed where they can see you. Bright colors," Honea said. "When you hear traffic coming up to you, sit up and wave" or otherwise make your presence obvious to the car’s driver. "Make sure they see you.

"Motorists need to be aware bicyclists are up there, especially in rural and more scenic state routes. You might encounter people taking advantage of that," Honea said.

Hit ‘n’ Run: Seen April 12: A driver using a left turn lane as a passing lane on southbound Rampart Boulevard at Summerlin Parkway. It was an SUV. With California plates. Of course.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call the Road Warrior at 387-2904, or e-mail him at roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com or OSofradzija@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number.

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