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Boulder City residents say fix for traffic snarls can’t come fast enough

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Justin M. Bowen

Trucks pass on U.S. 93 near the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge outside Boulder City on Friday, Feb. 25, 2011.

Boulder City Traffic

Traffic leaves town heading toward Henderson on U.S. 93 near Veterans Memorial Drive in Boulder City on Friday, Feb. 25, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge Opens

The recently opened Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge is framed by the Hoover Dam Wednesday, October 20, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Traffic woes in Boulder City caused by the new Hoover Dam bypass bridge could be eased later this year, but not everyone is happy about a proposal to widen U.S. 93.

The Nevada Department of Transportation held a public meeting in Boulder City on Thursday afternoon to present its plans to widen the highway between Buchanan Boulevard and the bypass.

The department fast-tracked the project after city leaders reported how bad traffic had become once the bypass opened and trucks started rolling back through town. Trucks had been barred from crossing the dam.

Residents, however, complained that the widening project is too little, too late.

“It’s a stop gap at best,” said former City Council member Andrea Anderson.

Anderson, who was on the council when the project started, said transportation officials reported then that there wouldn’t be traffic problems when the bridge opened. “All of the sudden, here comes the traffic,” she said.

“And we are held hostage,” added Beverly Parry, who lives off U.S. 93 near Nevada Way. “Why didn’t anyone do anything for us? We live here, and living here means more should be done for us than for the truckers going up the hill.”

The Transportation Department plans to widen the highway, eliminating the current bottleneck that creates traffic backups that sometimes have reached all the way to Henderson.

When the project is finished, U.S. 93 will be two lanes all the way through Boulder City to the dam bypass. It also will have new turn lanes, giving better access to side roads, wider shoulders and medians, and new signs and lighting.

Construction is expected to start this summer and be completed in the fall, although no exact dates have been announced.

To speed things along, the state will pay for the $12 million to $15 million in improvements using only state gas tax revenue, instead of seeking federal funds as is usual, said Rudy Malfabon, the department’s deputy director.

That accelerates the timeline and keeps the project from interfering with the planed Boulder City Bypass — a freeway that would allow traffic to go around Boulder City to get from Arizona to Henderson.

Boulder City residents reiterated their support for the full bypass around the city, saying it was the only way to solve the traffic problems.

“The Boulder City Bypass is moving forward,” Project Manager Tony Lorenzi said, but funding for the second phase of the project, estimated at $300 million, has yet to be identified.

“NDOT wants to see that get funded as much as anybody does,” Lorenzi said.

In the meantime, he said, the current project will solve many of the problems with congestion in the town.

Other residents were concerned about specific details of the project, such as how the turn lanes are configured for some of the side streets.

Kent Sears, the district traffic engineer for the department, said that because funding and space is limited, there is no way to build flyovers and overpasses. “What we are providing here is just about the best we can get,” he said.

Residents also asked about the speed limit on the road once it is widened.

Sears said the department would do a survey and study the traffic before a final speed limit is set.

City Councilman Duncan McCoy asked about Mayor Roger Tobler’s request that trucks be banned from the route until construction is over.

The Arizona Department of Transportation is opposed to the request, because it would return truck problems to Bullhead City on the alternate route. Arizona officials attended Thursday’s meeting in Boulder City but didn’t speak.

Malfabon said after the meeting that NDOT Director Susan Martinovich is meeting with her Arizona counterpart next week to discuss the proposal.

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