Column: The great Highway 395 race would have been at standstill

As I was sitting motionless in traffic on Roop Street on Wednesday, I thought about the idea of a race between Mark Amodei and Kenny Guinn.

The stakes would be the southern leg of Carson City's bypass vs. Interstate 580.

Amodei would start at the Mount Rose junction and head south for the AM/PM at the north end of Carson City. Guinn would start at the Spooner junction and head north for the same AM/PM.

Both would have to drive the speed limit, of course. But if the race occurs around 5 p.m. on a weekday, then Guinn won't have to worry about driving very fast through the heart of Carson City.

In fact, as Amodei is zipping along toward his destination 15 miles away, Guinn will be tempted to get out and walk the six miles along Carson Street. No fair, though.

For some reason, the Nevada Department of Transportation has been gleefully designing an interstate where one isn't needed while dragging its feet on a bypass that's been needed for at least a decade.

Maybe it's the idea of that record-setting concrete bridge across Galena Creek that makes I-580 look like so much fun. By comparison, the Carson City bypass is just boring.

Maybe we're secretly being taped by those new cameras at intersections for forthcoming episodes of "Big Brother." The more frustrated the drivers, the better the ratings.

Every time you pump some fuel into your tank in Carson City and watch the numbers flicker by, remember that you're helping to pay for a bypass that, so far, goes nowhere. Nickel-a-gallon, nickel-a-gallon, nickel-a-gallon. Such a soothing sound.

It was Amodei, Carson City's state senator, who stood up the other day and wondered out loud whether I-580 from the Mount Rose junction through Washoe Valley is really more important than Carson City's bypass.

He made the point that it might just be faster to go from Mount Rose to North Carson than it is to go from South Carson to North Carson. I've tried it a couple of times, and I think it's pretty close.

It would have been no contest, though, on Wednesday. That's when the lights went out in Carson City, and traffic became a stationary noun.

Fortunately, many drivers were alert and courteous. Otherwise, traffic would have come to complete gridlock if everybody had acted like the few jerks who couldn't figure out that you should treat a dead stoplight like a four-way stop.

Of course, I have no doubt these are the same people who haven't yet figured out that you treat a four-way stop like a four-way stop. They are the main reason for the whole debate over the Edmonds roundabout.

I'm tempted to write one of those how-to books and call it "Driving for Dummies."

One of the chapters would be about the people who drive through Washoe Valley at 65 mph in the left lane. The really odd thing, at least to me, is that these are the same people who continue driving at 65 mph in the left lane even after the speed limit drops to 50 mph.

Sorry, but the Nevada Highway Patrol does not compute speeding violations based on the average speed you travel during your trip.

I could follow up "Driving for Dummies" with "Parking for Morons."

My main question would be: If everyone is created equal, why do only a few people believe they should be allowed to park directly in front of the door at the grocery store?

I see these people every time I go to the store, don't you? There are 8,000 parking spaces in the lot, but they drive up in front of the store, shut off the engine and hop out. They're only going to pick up an item or two - just like the other 40 people in the "Eight items or less" aisle.

Anyway, back to Wednesday's traffic jam.

It's not just convenience we're talking about here. Most of the residents of Carson City probably will contine to use Carson Street to get around, making it just as busy as it is right now even after the bypass is built.

If they wait too long to complete the whole thing, though, Carson Street will become so impassable that we might just as well designate it as the hiking-biking path and forego automobiles altogether. Park at one end of Carson City, take a bicycle through town, and we'll issue a comparable vehicle at the other end.

Imagine if Wednesday's traffic jam had been caused by a major accident, involving a semi-trailer loaded with hazardous materials, on Highway 395 in the middle of town. This is the worst-case scenario that sometimes gets forgotten in the debate over who has enough money to build which road.

Carson Street is a hazard. People take outrageous chances every day because Carson Street punishes the timid and rewards the reckless.

Trying to make a left turn safely onto Carson Street, or get from one side to the other? You better have plenty of patience or a solid insurance policy.

That's the main reason I predict Amodei would win the race to the AM/PM with the governor.

Yes, it would be close. But Mark would be able to pull right in, while Kenny would be stuck in the left-turn lane waiting for some kind-hearted soul to let him through.

Barry Smith is managing editor of the Nevada Appeal.

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