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Alternate bypass route would save money, vistas

I was surprised by the absence of letters to the editor expressing concern or opposition to the proposed opening of sizable plots of city lands for economic development along the future Interstate 11 bypass of our city, such as at the junction of I-11 and U.S. Highway 95.

But I am not surprised that the proposal has been made. After all, it is rare that a new urban freeway is not quickly followed by development along its length and development at highway intersections is almost always the first place considered.

Yet I fear that despite any forthcoming denials of intent, we will likely see more proposals to accommodate development along this new perimeter of our city. Very likely, existing food outlets within our city along Nevada Highway will be the first to be provided space along the bypass, where most of the tourist and truck traffic will flow, and likely there will be a frontage road paralleling this freeway to accommodate not just these businesses but new ones and even industrialization that will gravitate to newly created opportunities.

Perhaps business interests will approve of this trend but I think our citizens should fear it as a game-changer for the growth of Boulder City and a loss of the natural landscape vistas toward the south and within Eldorado Valley. Almost certainly the land between the current city core and this bypass will eventually be filled in by new suburbs, sprawl if you will, as interests clamor with the supposed logic of weakening our slow-growth ordinances.

But perhaps none of this need happen. I understand how people feel about the current traffic through our city along U.S. Highway 93 in Hemenway Wash, but with current experience there has it proved to be so bad? There is serious congestion caused by that sharp turn at the Buchanan Boulevard traffic light and the interruption of flow at both traffic lights along Nevada Highway.

Yet think about it. Why could not the future I-11 follow the much shorter existing U.S. Highway 93 route in Hemenway Wash, much as it does today?

But rather than have it go through the two traffic lights, why not have it follow a nearly straight extension of the Hemenway route along the present wide railroad right-of-way, to merge with U.S. Highway 93 somewhere west of Veterans Memorial Drive. This extension would parallel Nevada Highway within the city, which would then become a frontage road accommodating the present businesses there that would continue to enjoy local business and all the tourist trade currently coming their way.

I know! I know! All that traffic noise adjacent to the highway along Hemenway Wash. And then the difficulty of crossing a freeway here as well as the problem of phasing into freeway traffic from the residential areas.

Yet residents in Hemenway who I’ve spoken with say there is little noise from the current traffic. Sound walls would sharply diminish what exists. For the cost saving of this route versus the much longer and complexly engineered proposed bypass, two or three overpasses could be built to accommodate cross traffic. Long phase-in lanes would help the Hemenway residents enter the freeway traffic, as would the slower speed of truck traffic while ascending the relatively steep Hemenway grade.

The railroad need not be lost, either. The track need only be moved a bit into the open space north of Industrial Road for better views by passengers to the colorful River Mountains.

I know it may seem late in the day to consider a major change in the I-11 path, but not impossible considering the sharp advantages of possible shortness, easier engineering and construction, and the lower cost of this route through the city (think of the relative ease of acquiring reduced financing). I think our city fathers should reopen the discussion of the I-11 route before we lose our cherished qualities of life to accelerated suburban growth, perimeter industrialization and loss of a long appreciated Boulder City asset — those wide open vistas to the south and within Eldorado Valley lands.

Howard Booth is a resident of Boulder City.

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