Our View: Better plan for highway focuses on access points, not medians

April 1, 2019

The Lake Havasu Metropolitan Planning Organization was created by federal mandate when the city’s population hit 50,000. It became, then, a policy-making bureaucracy in search of something to do.

Since then, it’s focused on regional transportation plans, including mass transit, bike paths and pedestrian walkways. Importantly, the group is also focused on reducing accidents and fatalities.

We offer this background by way of explaining how a.) a key committee came to recommend installing medians on State Route 95 in the central part of the city and b.) how the group agreed to spend $50,000 for a video promoting safer driving.

The rationale for the highway medians is to reduce accidents with slower, calmer traffic. We believe the installation of medians would actually make the highway less safe and will, if they slow traffic any more, create more driver stress and therefore amplify an unsafe condition.

Highways are meant for expedient travel SR95 through Lake Havasu City doesn’t do that because of multiple side streets and traffic signals. The highway through the city contains multiple choke points, primarily from Mesquite to Swanson avenues.

At Mesquite in particular, southbound highway traffic that turns left is often backed up on the highway because of Mesquite traffic is halted by a signal at Lake Havasu Avenue. Road rage then becomes part of the equation.

Fast traffic isn’t the problem.

It’s true that intersections with SR95 are the most dangerous in the city for accidents. This is somewhat a numbers game based on the amount of traffic.

We suggest that safety would be enhanced if traffic flowed more smoothly and more quickly.

When SR95 was widened, it was built with no shoulders. The center lane was designated as the breakdown lane. It’s not usually used as such, but the center lane does allow traffic to get around breakdowns or minor accidents or work crews.

Medians will stop that. Ultimately, the best, safest SR95 in the central part of town would be a wider highway and a plan to reduce signals and reroute other streets to allow merging traffic. Fixing the crumbling pavement would help, too.

In some distant time, the eastern bypass route could displace some of the city’s highway traffic but that day is far away. SR95 through the city is the hand motorists are dealt.

A realignment study of the highway’s intersections with Swanson and Mesquite would, in our opinion, produce more value than, say, an expensive safe driving video.

The study would provide a significant first step in improving highway safety at the most dangerous intersections. It should also rule out roundabouts or traffic circles, no matter how well their English roots mesh with the nearby London Bridge.

Overpasses, underpasses and merge lane may seem like expensive plans only realistic for metro areas. That’s a fact. Fortunately, the city now has a Metropolitan Planning Organization with those keywords in its name.

— Today’s News-Herald