After yet another blood pressure raising incident - just one of many thrilling experiences at the intersection of Fairview and Saliman - I am frustrated enough to tackle the question of public safety and "traffic control."
Before beginning, I must confess that I have not determined which agency is responsible for traffic control at the above-mentioned intersection; i.e., who created this monster? Certainly, the city makes such decisions on most of the public travel ways in town. But some streets fall within the purview of the state Regional Transportation Commission by virtue of their inclusion in the Nevada Department of Transportation's road system.
The problem with this intersection stems from the sudden, unexpected funneling-down of two lanes of traffic into one. Although most of the drivers with whom I've exchanged unpleasantries there appear to be local, the confusion and anger generated by this ill-planned device has to be much greater when an out-of-towner finds himself or herself suddenly faced with the need to: 1) slam on the brakes, or 2) hit the gas, or 3) try to intimidate the driver on the right into doing one of the above so that he or she can squeeze in, or 4) play chicken with the oncoming traffic (into whose space he or she is about to trespass).
This condition exists in both the north- and south-bound lanes on Saliman at the above-mentioned intersection. The right-hand lane going in either direction continues but the left-hand lane pinches out almost immediately after crossing Fairview, theoretically putting two vehicles in the same space at the same time. The problem is exacerbated by the traffic light because it increases the likelihood that there will be at least two cars abreast going in the same direction, starting from a standing stop. Unless the driver in the left lane is aware of the impending construction and leaves the stoplight with "the pedal to the metal" to beat out the driver(s) to the right, he will be forced within seconds to select one of the four options mentioned above.
For those in authority who wring their hands and ponder the causes of road rage, here we have a guaranteed recipe: There are no street signs alerting north- or south-bound drivers to the pinch-out, only painted arrows in the left-hand lanes that warn (too late) that the lane ends in a few more feet. And, even as ineffective as this may be, what happens when the painted arrows are faded and/or daylight is poor or failing? And how about adding a half-inch or so of snow to obscure even that ineffectual warning? Since the right-hand lanes are straight through and uninterrupted, it seems reasonable to assume that vehicles in those lanes have the right-of-way and left-laners must yield, but making this decision (and enforcing it!) should not be the responsibility of the motorist.
How can this time bomb be defused? Simple. Signs advising that the right-hand lanes are right-turn only should be erected so that, even in a snow storm, guidance is clear. Second, the painted lines presently indicating that there are two merging lanes should be removed and the left lane should be restriped to guide traffic onto a single north- or south-bound lane.
It would cost the city or state a couple of bucks for the striping and signing but, unless steps are taken to remediate this brainchild of the short-sighted, the very real potential for fender-benders, lawsuits and road rage will remain.
RONALD K. BUDER