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Need for B Hill bollards baffling

Leslie and I sometimes go jogging to exercise. Actually, it’s more like shuffling. But when you’re old enough to get the senior discount at Denny’s, any locomotion means it’s a good day.

One of our favorite routes starts on lower Georgia Avenue, heads up Mendota Drive, across San Felipe Drive by the horse corrals, and then down Highland Drive by old B Hill where it spits us back onto Georgia.

We’ve been encouraged by the underground utility upgrades being performed on these streets, as well as many other streets in the area. Hopefully that’s a prelude to some much-needed asphalt upgrades as well.

But one thing has left us scratching our heads. Large electric utility vaults have been installed on the roadside as part of the utility work on Mendota and San Felipe.

Most of these vaults are flush with the ground, which means a vehicle would roll right over them if it swerved or simply pulled onto the shoulder to stop. In fact, these vaults are all topped with a metal cover and designed to support heavy loads like that.

None of that is too extraordinary. But here’s the curious part.

Apparently the city had lots of extra cash sitting around to install some window dressing, because each of the utility vaults is now bordered by multiple bollards topped with warning signs.

If you’ve ever visited Washington, D.C., or watched movies like “National Treasure,” you know what a bollard is. Bollards are those 3-foot-tall steel posts, sometimes concrete filled, that stop unauthorized vehicles from entering high-security venues like the White House or the Pentagon. Some are retractable, some fixed in place, and others manually removable.

Occasionally you’ll see a single bollard at a drive-through facility like a fast-food restaurant, bank or parking garage to prevent your vehicle from getting too close and accidentally causing damage. Other times two or three bollards are used in high-traffic areas to discourage drivers from veering into a pedestrian path.

Or a single bollard might warn you from backing into a gas meter in a tight parking area. Our own River Mountains Loop Trail has single removable bollards placed wherever necessary to stop vehicles from entering the bike path. Yes, strategically placed bollards used sparingly can serve valuable safety purposes.

But the B Hill bollards we’ve witnessed lately seem like major overkill. The new utility vaults are made to support vehicles, just like the old ones. So, what are we trying to protect?

Certainly not the vaults themselves. And without bollards, the occasional errant vehicle wouldn’t sustain any damage either. A drunk, drowsy or distracted driver swerving over a vault would merely be jolted back to reality, like going too fast over a speed bump. Now, however, the bollards will do major damage to any erratic vehicles and likely to their drivers and passengers as well.

Even if protecting the vaults were really an issue, one or two bollards would be more than sufficient. But some of the vaults are surrounded by up to 10 bollards. It’s crazy. They’re installed so close together that it’s almost like we’re trying to keep motorcycles, bikes and baby strollers off of them as well.

A couple of the vaults near the horse corrals even have three or four bollards on the side furthest away from the road, as though were hoping to prevent stampeding horses and chickens from trespassing onto our precious vaults, too.

If that weren’t bad enough, dozens of the bollards are topped by very conspicuous tiger-striped warning signs, some of which are 7-feet tall. I’m not the aesthetics police, but if citizens complain about ugly power lines and cell towers in their backyards, I’m guessing that many B Hill residents aren’t too pleased to see scores of bollards at the bottom of their driveways every day either.

If safety is really the issue, then why don’t we similarly protect above-ground fixtures like fire hydrants and electric transformers with bollards? They can’t be cheap to install or maintain either.

I’m sure the feeble explanation will be that B Hill doesn’t have any sidewalk setbacks to protect utilities like other residential areas do. But even so, the B Hill bollards just don’t make sense to me. Then again, maybe I’m just getting old and senile. Take a look and let me know what you think.

The opinions expressed above belong solely to the author and do not represent the views of the Boulder City Review. They have been edited solely for grammar, spelling and style, and have not been checked for accuracy of the viewpoints.

Rod Woodbury has resided in Boulder City for more than 40 years and is a partner in the law firm Jolley Urga Woodbury &Holthus. He served on the City Council from 2011- 2019, including four years as mayor.

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