Las Vegas Sun

October 6, 2022

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NLV contemplates a safer boulevard

Taking a hint from Europe, city could turn hazardous road into multiway thoroughfare



In this digital photographic rendering of a proposed conversion of Las Vegas Boulevard in North Las Vegas, there would be three medians: the traditional center median to divide two lanes of through traffic in both directions, and two side medians to separate mass transit buses and bicycles from through traffic.

Southern Nevada is poised to get its first stretch of road that separates buses and bicyclists from other traffic with side medians, a concept that is intended to improve pedestrian safety.

This European design, known as a multiway boulevard, has existed in several U.S. cities for at least 20 years, including San Francisco, Santa Monica, Calif., and Seattle.

North Las Vegas could be added to that list if its City Council approves a proposal to convert a portion of North Las Vegas Boulevard from northeast of Bruce Street to Carey Avenue into a multiway route as part of a downtown revitalization project.

The portion under consideration for conversion to a multiway boulevard has a center median and three lanes of traffic in each direction, including right-hand lanes for buses on either side. The proposal would use side medians to separate the two lanes of through traffic from the bus lanes.

It’s too early to tell whether the concept will catch on in the valley. The Regional Transportation Commission, which operates the public buses, is eager to see how it works on North Las Vegas Boulevard before committing to its use elsewhere. Commission spokeswoman Tracy Bower said elements of the multiway boulevard could wind up in the design of future projects for major streets.

“We have to look at each corridor individually because each one is a bit unique,” Bower said. “Once it is operated on North Las Vegas Boulevard, that will tell us a lot.”

If multiway boulevard fever spreads, two of the most likely candidates are Maryland Parkway and Boulder Highway, said Erin Breen, director of the Safe Community Partnership Program at UNLV’s Transportation Research Center. Both roads have heavy car, bus and pedestrian traffic. Maryland Parkway holds the dubious distinction of being the most hazardous road in the valley for pedestrians, with nine of the 13 locations with the most accidents involving people on foot.

What Breen likes about the multiway boulevard concept is that it shortens the distance pedestrians must walk to safely cross a street. They can go from the curb to the first side median, then to the center median that separates the through traffic, and proceed on to the other side median and the other curb.

“Anytime you shorten the distance a pedestrian must go, it only adds to pedestrian safety,” Breen said.

The North Las Vegas City Council is expected to vote on the proposal in September. If it’s approved, construction will take three to five years. It could be a welcome improvement to North Las Vegas Boulevard, portions of which are so aesthetically bleak it can look deserted even on its best days.

Many of the businesses along the boulevard, one of the valley’s widest, are set back far from the sidewalks. And crosswalks are so few and far between that pedestrians often must dart around traffic at their peril to cross it.

A new City Hall and a Hispanic-themed shopping center are among the proposed developments for that section of the boulevard, and the Silver Nugget, at 2140 N. Las Vegas Blvd., is planning an expansion.

When Jeffrey Fine, chief executive of the casino’s parent company, Silver Nugget Gaming, first saw the proposal for the boulevard and other suggested downtown improvements, he was impressed.

“I like everything they are doing,” Fine said. “It would change the whole complexion of the neighborhood and make you feel like you’re in a different place.”

If the transportation commission gives its approval, it’s possible that the side medians would also be used to separate buses from through traffic at other transit stops extending along the boulevard to Nellis Air Force Base.

“We’re talking about echoing what the city is doing because we want the street to have a consistent look,” commission planner Polly Carolin said.

Separating mass transit buses and bicycles from other vehicles would, in theory, make traffic flow more smoothly — an improvement that would benefit everyone on the road.

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