Wednesday, July 18, 2012 | 2 a.m.
By the year 2030, Nevada Department of Transportation project manager John Terry envisions future highways filled not with flying cars, but express car pool lanes.
He pictures roadways like Southern California, where the car pool or High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes run separate from general traffic for two or three miles at a time, allowing car poolers and buses express travel. He imagines the HOV lanes along the highways connected by ramps to make transit easier and more efficient.
This is the future Terry shared with Las Vegas residents at the department's public information meeting Tuesday at the Howard Lieburn Senior Center. More than 20 Southern Nevada residents showed up at the meeting designed to inform the public about the future and discuss the opening of two new HOV lane sections on U.S. Highway 95.
“We just wanted to update people that more HOV lanes are coming, the operating rules are similar to the ones we have today and talk about future plans for HOV lanes we have,” Terry said.
In two weeks, the department will open up the first part of its future with the completion of the Summerlin Parkway HOV Flyover, which connects HOV lanes from U.S. 95 to Summerlin Parkway. Then in October, HOV lanes from Rainbow Boulevard to Ann Road on the highway will open up. The lanes will double the amount of HOV lanes in Southern Nevada.
Currently, only one HOV lane exists going from Rancho Drive to Rainbow Boulevard on U.S. 95. Las Vegas resident Marie Milham said the lane hasn’t been effective.
“I use it some of the time, but the ride is too short to get over there,” she said.
Terry said the upcoming HOV lanes would be more useful because they cover a longer stretch of road. He said it would help cut down on transit times as roadways become more congested. In turn, the lanes would also encourage more frequent use of mass transit services such as buses and car pools, which would help Las Vegas meet its air quality standards.
Terry said the lanes would also connect to transit stations, which are key to an HOV lane’s success. An efficient HOV lane has more than 1,000 vehicles on it each day.
“You want to move more people in HOV lanes than in the adjacent general purpose lanes, and transit is a good way to move a lot of people,” Terry said.
Terry said all HOV lanes would be added, not converted from pre-existing lanes. They will be open only for drivers with two or more passengers during peak travel hours, and converted back to a general passenger lane during all other hours. But Terry said they would re-evaluate making it a 24-hour HOV lane in the future.
Terry also discussed Project NEON, a plan designed to have HOV ramps connecting Interstates 15 and 515. The connectors would save motorists time and prevent HOV lane riders from weaving across the highway to reach exit ramps. Terry said the hope is to complete the project in five to 10 years, but funding remains low.
Milham said she liked the proposed improvements, but the lack of funding frustrates her.
“I think Southern Nevada gets short-changed,” Milham said. “Reno’s highway receives a whole lot more funding compared to what we receive with our population and growth. We need to get more.”
Still, Las Vegas resident Carole Guth left the meeting excited for the future. She moved to Las Vegas 12 years ago, and said the roads were congested. She says the HOV lanes will help to break the congestion up like nasal spray.
“They’re working on it,” Guth said. “It already looks lot better than when I moved here 12 years ago.”