We’re just snoozing here in Carson City
August 30, 2002
It was nice of a Las Vegas newspaper to acknowledge the other day that all the important people live in Carson City.
Well, maybe not all the important people. Wayne Newton’s still maintaining a Vegas address, as far as I know.
But the gist of the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s editorial, which I couldn’t resist reprinting in the Nevada Appeal, was that the decision-makers for the Nevada Department of Transportation are living the bucolic life in Carson City while those underprivileged Vegans have to fight their way through traffic every day.
“Carson City is a wonderful place. But it is a sleepy little town with no traffic problems to speak of — certainly none of the magnitude that Las Vegas now experiences,” the Review-Journal opined.
I had begun to doze off, but that sentenced snapped me awake. Or maybe it was the snoring from the other folks in the newsroom. We generally take a siesta in the mid-afternoons, then gather in the break room for milk and cookies.
“We have suggested in the past,” the newspaper’s editorial continued, “that the governor should immediately require the head of NDOT (and perhaps other key state officials) to take up residence in Las Vegas. That would force the head of NDOT to live through what southern Nevadans live through every day on our roads and highways.
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“We don’t need our state traffic decision-makers to ‘try’ to understand Las Vegas’ traffic problems. We need them to absolutely and profoundly understand them. There’s no better way for that to happen than to have them drive in this traffic with us.”
Now, I don’t want to make light of Las Vegas traffic problems. The editorial was written for a good reason — an accident that killed a mother and son. I can feel the frustration. I just wish they hadn’t bagged on Carson City to make the point.
And let me be the first to say the editorial is absolutely right in one respect. Carson City does not have traffic problems (plural). It has a traffic problem (singular). That’s because there’s only one highway through town.
Always been that way. Doesn’t always have to stay that way.
But I think it’s interesting to note that about the time Carson City started lobbying for a new freeway, there were some 15,000 residents. It sure has grown since then — more than triple in size, to over 50,000 people.
To be fair, there have been some improvements. We now have bridges. No highway between them yet, but we do have bridges. And this summer we got a new lane in either direction in the south end of town.
I don’t quite know how to credit all this activity in the past 30 years, except to say that it must be because NDOT decision-makers live in Carson City and got tired of their grandchildren sitting in traffic.
I should also note that during this same period, Las Vegas grew. Some residents of Northern Nevada might not have noticed, except that the state started to tilt in a decidedly southern direction.
Las Vegas went from about 250,000 — smaller than present-day Reno — to about 1.3 million people.
In round figures, during the span Carson City was adding 35,000 people, Las Vegas had invited 1 million people to move in, bring their cars and drive around.
One would surmise from these statistics that Las Vegas is approximately 28 times better than Carson City. Otherwise, a million people would have moved here and only a few thousand would have moved to Vegas.
But you know what they say about statistics. In the hands of a newspaper editor, they’re meaningless.
No, the truth is that Carson City leaders were snoozing away, along with the general populace, and didn’t realize the benefits of attracting 1 million more people in roughly the span of one generation. Among those benefits would be, um, more traffic. But NDOT officials, being in Carson City at the time, also slept through the whole thing.
The problem, as I see it, is not that NDOT officials live in Northern Nevada. I’m sure they spend ample time stuck in traffic in Las Vegas to profoundly understand the problems (as well as snicker to themselves, from time to time, and thank the good Lord they do not have to actually live in Las Vegas.)
No, the problem, as I see it, stems from Las Vegans themselves. In fact, it was pretty well summed up in the Review-Journal’s editorial.
Here they are complaining about too much traffic, and what’s their solution? They want a few more people to move there and drive in it.
Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.
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