Think of dirt piles as work in progress

Now you see them, now you don’t. That’s a common theme around the Las Vegas Valley when it comes to construction workers and even construction sites. Sometimes people see projects start and then abruptly stop, even when it appears as though the work isn’t near completion. That has Ken curious.

Here’s Ken: There used to be a lot of activity at the west end of Cactus Avenue at the railroad tracks. A large mound of dirt was built up on both sides, and then the work just completely stopped. What gives? The Desert Oasis High School kids need a way to cross the tracks to get to school, but nothing is happening.

Also, just to the north of this dirt bridge, a large berm was built up for about a quarter mile. This berm runs parallel to the railroad tracks and extends the length of Torrey Pines Road and Pyle Avenue. What the heck is this large built-up mound for?

There are a few things going on in that area, Ken. First off, the county is building the Duck Creek Railroad Detention Basin, so that explains the flurry of activity you saw recently. The dirt removed for the basin was piled up and will be used for the ramps on the future Cactus Avenue overpass that will cross Interstate 15. Rather than hauling off the dirt, storing it somewhere else and bringing it back, Clark County officials decided it would be less expensive and more efficient to leave it on site. Construction of that overpass, by the way, is scheduled to start early next year. There are other piles of dirt that will not be used for the ramps but simply haven’t been taken away just yet.

Aquilino likes the final countdown: I was wondering what you think of “the countdown to yellow light” that I see in various corners signifying how many seconds there are left before the traffic light turns yellow. I find it very useful in planning what I need to do as I approach crossing an intersection. It is my opinion that it prevents accidents, since there is no need to guess when the green light will turn yellow, hence no need to take a chance in speeding up and/or suddenly braking. I wonder if it is an experiment and I wonder what the results are? Does the county plan on installing more of these instead of the “gotcha” cameras?

Those timers are part of the flashing yellow arrow system that has been installed at a handful of Las Vegas Valley intersections. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the flashing yellow arrows are replacing the solid green light and allows motorists to make a left turn while merging to oncoming traffic. You might see the countdown boxes without the flashing arrow, but the arrow is likely not far behind.

As far as safety, studies have proved that the flashing arrow is safer because it catches motorists’ attention. As far as the countdown, that is unknown. The feature is used by drivers but designed to help pedestrians. This is not a pilot program. In fact, the city of Las Vegas recently installed the system at two intersections and plans to add another 300 in the future.

An additional note: Cameras you see atop traffic signals are to monitor traffic and time signals. In Nevada, it is illegal to use these cameras as a law enforcement tool.

Sheila questions paratransit: I was waiting for the paratransit bus for 25 minutes inside my apartment complex. In the meantime five other buses came into the complex and each picked up one person. Why doesn’t one vehicle pick up everybody instead of making someone wait 25 minutes?

This undoubtedly appears to be an inefficient way to operate the paratransit system, which for those of you who don’t know is a transportation service for disabled residents. What Sheila witnessed is probably rare, but it can happen and doesn’t necessarily mean the system is inefficient. Paratransit dispatchers use software that tells them how best to assign vehicles based on rides. If, for example, Sheila lives in the northwest, it wouldn’t make sense to have one vehicle pick up all the passengers if each were headed to a different part of the valley. Also, if subscription passengers, or those who have scheduled weekly appointments for treatments such as dialysis, are headed to the same location, the same vehicle might pick them up even if their homes are not near each other.

Keeping with paratransit, here’s Ed: I heard the Regional Transportation Commission was going to eliminate monthly passes for paratransit. Don’t they realize some of us can’t afford individual rides. Some of us have multiple doctor’s appointments in a single week and couldn’t afford paratransit without monthly passes.

Ed, yes, that was discussed. The paratransit service is costing the money-strapped Regional Transportation Commission more and more every year. The agency was hit particularly hard when the state stopped subsidizing shuttles to community and senior centers last year. A handful of passengers abuse the service and don’t plan their trips in an efficient manner, which puts more demand on paratransit. That said, administrators at the agency are no longer considering eliminating the monthly pass at this point. “We heard loud and clear from the community that this would create a hardship,” RTC spokeswoman Tracy Bower said. The agency is taking a look at other ways it can reduce the cost to run the service. I’ll keep you posted if something changes.

Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at or 702-387-2904.

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