For a couple of years, the bypassing of Boulder City by the Interstate 11 freeway has been the subject of endless speculation, and with good reason. To hear the pessimists, some of our valued businesses out along Nevada Highway/Boulder City Parkway will be hurt, maybe even put out of business when all those weekenders stop driving through.
Councilman Kiernan McManus held a briefing at the Boulder City library on June 14. I sneaked in and was impressed to say the least. McManus has a way of explaining the inexplicable in terms a country boy can understand. He said that the highwaymen estimated a 34 percent drop in traffic with the bypass open. He fears it might be more, but we will know precisely because we have those rubber hose things across the street that will count exactly how much that changes.
I have no idea how the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada computed that 34 percent estimate, but we can rest assured it was the product of countless hours by well-paid public servants. I just wonder if they considered all the variables in this guessing game?
Did they consider any trade off with increased local drivers? My family, and many others I know, avoid driving out that way now, especially on weekends. Turning into, and safely getting out of, Verizon, the eye doctor, or the water store is not something one contemplates with ease. There must be some in town who choose to deal with an alternative gas station, etc. just because it is located on the easterly side of that busy intersection. When traffic does drop, won’t some of us start patronizing those places more frequently?
Did they consider that many will choose not to drive 15 miles, when the current route is only 9? The RTC oversold the route initially by promising up to a 30-minute time savings, which is total hogwash. They boast 15 miles of new road bed to take people around the town. It’s only 9 miles through town. Currently, at light traffic times, it’s about 13 minutes from Railroad Pass to Hoover Dam Lodge if you catch the light right.
Only in highest traffic times on weekends would the bypass prove to be even a little quicker. Drivers with their GPS set to shortest route, will be directed through town.
Did they estimate how many of the tourists want to go through our town? Many boaters can be seen in the Albertsons parking lot, stocking up for the day. Hungry kids will be crying for a McBreakfast on the way in. Some will need to gas up, or want dinner on the way home. They can’t buy necessities along the bypass.
Dan Fox at my favorite smokehouse is not worried. Signs along the existing highway direct barbecue fans to Fox’s place. But, he says most of his lake customers call-in their orders before leaving and will find him in town. (Fox is moving within the year to the Casa Flores location.)
Another observation is that not all businesses depend equally on trade with lakegoers. The Realtors, insurance agents, mechanics, auto parts and tire stores should hardly be affected at all, some might even gain by way of the aforementioned return of the locals. The barber at E.J.s told me he is actually looking forward to it; not very many boaters drop in for a trim on the way to the lake, but his regulars will be able to access the shop much more easily.
Dave Nelson retired to Boulder City in 2003 after a career with the FICO score company. He is vice president and newsletter editor for the local Sons of Norway.