The Wall Came Down

Muscle Powered board member Tim Rowe offered an update on the Hwy 395 widening.

Please note – Monumental Day last week – the wall came down!

Yes,  the non-bicycle friendly K-Rail concrete wall was completely removed on Hwy 395 South from Jacks Valley/Sunridge to Hwy 50 west. They started removing the wall Tuesday night and Wednesday as paving has been completed on the widening project.  Douglas County also sand/oiled their part of Topsy Lane.  Will be interesting to see how  the contractor now stripes the new lane/shoulder with the existing temporary narrow & bumpy lanes and old rumble strip. Has been a reduced bicycle mile event here all summer but we survived.

Note that this certainly limited my riding to work and back. As, I would only ride to work early on the weekend when traffic was lighter and I felt somewhat safe. Making the hard right turn on Topsy Lane east bound on to gravel/various grades and equipment present was really interesting – especially on skinny tires and even in a car/truck. That is to say when Topsy Lane was open, as the contractor had it closed most days, and sometimes at night, and then without proper signage. Guess now bicyclists only just have to deal with the barrels/cones and rumble strip – but at least there is an escape route! I will certainly be glad when this is all over and I can ride to work and back more often.

Now we only have one real bicycle unfriendly construction area – Edmonds Ave. Note that the concrete wall/high fence on the southbound side  has now been expanded to almost a full mile! I will Only ride Edmonds north bound and Only during off hours.

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Hwy 395 Update

this lower section will still be a problem

A meeting was held on Wednesday, June 9 with four bicycle advocates and three NDOT employees to discuss the lack of accommodation for bicyclists in the Hwy 395 third lane project now being constructed between Jacks Valley Rd and Lupin Dr. In the meeting were: Steve Lani – Resident Engineer for Project, NDOT Construction Division, Bill Story – Manager, NDOT Bicycle, Pedestrian & Safe Routes to School Programs, Paul Sinnott – Assistant Design Chief, NDOT Roadway Design Division, Tim Rowe – Nevada Bicycle Board & Alta Alpina Cycling Club, Denis Coyne – Nevada Bicycle Board & Bike Shop owner near construction, Sig Jaunarajs – Chairman, Nevada Bicycle Board, and Dan Allison – MusclePowered & Carson City Safe Routes to School Coordinator.

The agreement from the meeting was that NDOT will take the following actions:

  1. The speed limit will be left at 45 mph for the remainder of the project, 24×7, and Highway Patrol will be informed.
  2. In the upper section between Jacks Valley Rd and Topsy Ln, there will be a three foot “bike lane” striped with an additional two feet or so of pavement including the rumble strip, before the barrier. The barrier was just added over the last three days. The three feet will be gained by narrowing the vehicle lanes to 11 feet. This will take about one week to accomplish the re-striping.
  3. A message sign will be placed south of Jacks Valley Rd which notifies all users of the narrowed lanes and presence of bicycles.
  4. Bicyclists will not be prohibited from “taking the lane” through the entire construction zone, but these actions will provide an alternative for those who are not comfortable with doing so.

The lower section, Topsy to Lupin, will still have no shoulder and bicyclists will have to take the lane if they want to use this section.

A detour around the lower section was discussed, however, the detour would need to include a temporary paved path through the construction area on Topsy Ln (which is a Douglas County project rather than NDOT project), and though the detour would not actually be out of the way for most destinations, bicyclists unfamiliar with the area would not likely take the detour. For those who want to detour, there is a Google map. One could also turn left onto Topsy, go down Vista Grande Blvd to Old Clear Creek Rd and then out to cross Hwy 395 to Lupin Dr, but this requires crossing two lanes of traffic to the left turn lanes onto Topsy.

These actions do not make the route safe, just less unsafe than it was. Probably the biggest difference is reducing the speed limit to 45 mph, but the effectiveness of this depends upon active enforcement by the Nevada Highway Patrol. If you notice drivers significantly exceeding the speed limit here, please report them to NHP, or if there is a general problem, contact NHP and ask for more enforcement.

If you are using this section of Hwy 395, whether for commuting, shopping, or recreation, please report your experiences back here to the blog. We will pass concerns along to NDOT.

NDOT endangers bicyclists on 395

no shoulder on Hwy 395 north of Topsy

The NDOT project to add a third lane northbound to Hwy 395 between Jacks Valley Rd and Lupin Dr is a danger to bicyclists. At a public meeting on December 9, 2009, the NDOT project engineer Ken Mammen promised to Tim Rowe and others that bicyclists would be accommodated during construction of the project. That has not occurred. Part of the project, from Jacks Valley to Topsy, has a narrowed shoulder. A “Watch for Bicycles” sign is right in the middle of the shoulder, which would cause bicyclists to have to veer around it, and the sign is so small (much smaller than the other construction signs) that it is unlikely to be noticed by motorists. Things get worse north of Topsy, where the shoulder is now as narrow as six inches, up against a concrete barrier, and where it widens the pavement has rumble strips. The “Watch for Bicyclists” signs were not added until after the project was underway.

Yesterday I rode this section to see how bad it was, and I was nearly blown into the concrete barrier by a semi-truck. If I hadn’t been able to correct, I’d have either been thrown over the barrier or back into traffic and under a vehicle. Though there is a construction speed limit posted (I’m not sure what it is because the speed limit sign is hidden behind a construction barrel and I couldn’t catch it as I rode past), the traffic was moving at its usual 55 to 65 mph. Though I’m as strong a proponent of “take the lane” as anyone, it is not reasonable to assume that bicyclists will take the lane when the traffic is moving at 55 mph or more.

There are a number of commuters who use this roadway on a daily basis, and it is on the route for both local and touring recreational bicyclists going to and from Jacks Valley Rd and points further south. There are no other options. We asked NDOT to create a path along the alignment of Vista Grande Blvd as an alternative to Hwy 395 both during construction and afterwards, but they scoffed at us.

This project was fast tracked by NDOT so that they could get the ARRA funds. I’ve not talked to anyone who thinks this project is even necessary. I have talked to a number of people who are very, very angry that NDOT has ignored the safety needs of bicyclists.

Now that the project is underway, what are the solutions? I’d suggest that the speed limit be lowered to 35 mph for the duration of the project, and that it be actively enforced by the Highway Patrol. Another option is to narrow the motor vehicle lanes to one for the duration of the project, and make the right hand lane into a bicycle-only lane. Both of these might seem extreme, but this is a problem that NDOT created and is responsible for solving.

The project engineer for this project is Ken Mammen. His email is kmammen@dot.state.nv.us and phone is 775-888-7680.

Additional photos are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/sets/72157624227947568/.