Know the rules of the road
It’s evident every time I go for a drive just how bad the motorists of Southern Nevada are.
And I’m not just talking about the tourists who pay more attention to the Strip lights and the hot-babes-will-come-to-your-room billboards.
We speed, cut off and tailgate on our commutes every day, treating Interstate 15 like a NASCAR track. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a high-speed moving violation on my commute between home and work.
It has gotten worse now that upgrades have been completed on I-15 south of Tropicana Avenue and there are all sorts of new highway stripes motorists pay little attention to.
As I recently watched drivers dart in and out of the delineated express lanes that our friendly tourists are indirectly responsible for, it occurred to me that maybe locals don’t understand how they’re supposed to be used. So I cornered Rudy Malfabon, the newly appointed director of the Nevada Department of Transportation, to explain it.
The general rule of thumb: If you see double white stripes on the road, don’t cross them. They mark express lanes and were put in to separate commuters from tourists exiting I-15 to get to the resort corridor.
Tourists helped pay for the express lanes. The Legislature decided to take room tax originally designated for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to market the city and give it to NDOT to spend on roads projects instead.
The express lanes used to be separated from the other lanes by plastic “candlestick” markers, but drivers kept running them over. Malfabon said they aren’t coming back.
Another new addition on I-15 is dotted double white lines. That’s where you’re supposed to cross in and out of the express lanes.
It’s a little confusing farther south. Malfabon said it’s all right to cross in and out of a single express lane, but those, too, are marked with double white stripes.
In many respects, they’re like the U.S. 95 HOV (“high-occupancy vehicle”) diamond lanes. On those, motorists also can cross over and back to pass.
Still, you regularly see vehicles without passengers using those lanes during the posted hours of use — 6 to 10 a.m. and 2 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
It’s apparent that NDOT or maybe the Regional Transportation Commission needs to do an educational campaign to explain the rules of HOV and express lanes and what the fines are for violating them – not that our motorists would necessarily pay attention to them.
Utah recently marked special lanes of I-15 in the Provo-Salt Lake City-Ogden area, including toll lanes, as a means of controlling traffic while generating revenue. The lanes are well-marked and feature variable message signs that change the amount of the toll based on traffic volume. It’s easy to understand where and when you can cross in and out of lanes and how much it’s going to cost to use them.
The so-called “Lexus lanes” have been an idea for Nevada for several years, but lawmakers haven’t had the votes to approve tolling in the state.
In the meantime, it’s a good idea to get used to all the rules because eventually our express lanes are going to become HOV lanes when NDOT ramps up for Project Neon, a major overhaul of the freeway just south of the Spaghetti Bowl that bottlenecks every rush hour. The orange cones still are years away, but it can’t hurt for drivers to get a jump start on the rules.
And while you’re at it, lighten up on the speeding, tailgating and misbehaving on the highway. We all want to get home at night.