Sparks locks up

Modern life offers enough tension and stress

It may be a while before Sparks residents forget Oct. 11, 2017.

In one of those cases of dubious planning for which this valley is known, the unanticipated interaction of two road projects—changes to Fourth Street and Prater Way, plus changes to the Pyramid/McCarran intersection—locked up traffic in the Rail City unlike anything seen before. One project (Prater Way) narrowed Prater to one lane, halting any vehicles from traveling east and impeding any passage between north and south. The other (McCarran/Pyramid) narrowed McCarran, halting any vehicles from traveling west. As traffic from both projects backed up toward each other, the result was that Pyramid Way was jammed with hundreds of cars that moved incrementally or not at all.

As traffic on Pyramid backed up, drivers sought other ways of finding their way past this massive bottleneck, with the result that traffic was pushed down side streets into residential neighborhoods, where it backed up and eventually moved incrementally or not at all. Central Sparks became a parking lot.

One driver’s car boiled over.

An elderly driver took 70 minutes to reach her pharmacy.

An employee at Raley’s in the Mercantile Shopping Center at Pyramid and McCarran parked at the Pyramid Park Shopping Center at Pyramid and Holman and walked the rest of the way.

A cashier at one store said, “I’ve never seen anything quite like this.”

As we thought of it, it occurred to us that there was a time when government traffic projects and business construction projects in this valley were handled much differently than they are now. The convenience of the public was protected and traffic was kept flowing.

Public road building projects did all they could to keep businesses from being hurt. Businesses did their best to keep from blocking pedestrian traffic.

But now, those factors seem not to even be a consideration.

It is possible to build and still have a livable city.

It also occurred to us that in all our years of covering government meetings of various kinds, we have never heard questions asked like, “Is this construction going to keep the sidewalk clear?” or “Where is your plan for keeping traffic moving?” Nor, much less, have we ever heard a public official say, “You need to redesign this project to avoid inconveniencing people.”

There is another factor. Flagpeople were once used to keep traffic moving, not to give special treatment to their own employers. We have seen cases of traffic being stopped to let construction vehicles enter or leave construction sites instead of their waiting for a break in traffic as with any other driveway.

Modern life offers enough tension and stress. If would be nice if both public and private construction projects were designed to avoid it.