It’s not every day you get to walk on a brand-new interstate. Pristine pavement. Sharp, fresh striping. Hundreds of bicyclists, roller-skaters, skateboarders, and runners whizzing by you.
I had that very opportunity thanks to the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT). The last three, newly-constructed miles of I-580 in Carson City opened to traffic last week. Before our new freeway extension opened the unrelenting abuse of automobile traffic, NDOT held a freeway walk for pedestrians like us to celebrate its completion.
What? Nature Girl? Celebrating a freeway?
Yep. I sure am.
Even for someone as outdoor-minded as myself, I understand the value of cities. Aside from cultural experiences of art and performance, in modern times our lifestyles and supply chains rely on condensing services and offerings. That means moving things and people where they need to be most efficiently in and between those hubs.
This extension of the freeway takes pressure off of a congested area in the city for those who simply need to get through. Whether it’s locals going to work every day or tractor trailers hauling goods, there are valid reasons for smoothing the flow of traffic with a bypass highway. As for those who say it allows tourists to bypass our businesses, well, it’s our job to present a place that travelers want to stop and visit, isn’t it? And they’re not going to want to if the roads are so clogged they can’t get into town. I know when I’m traveling, I won’t stop in a city that is too frustrating to navigate.
Investing in our city
One of the intangible reasons I love this event was that it helps us as locals feel like it is ours. It highlights that it benefits us most of all and brought all kinds of people together to share pride in our city. That pride is crucial to a thriving community. Pride gives us the motivation to invest emotionally, defend it, and work tangibly to improve our daily lives as residents. And as a new-ish Nevadan, this event gave me an opportunity to dive deeper into melding with my new community.
As for the freeway itself, many fuss over the investment in artwork along our roadways as being frivolous. I strenuously disagree. What we surround ourselves with, the environment we create, says a lot. The freeway artwork says we are investing in our city for the long term. That message is important among us as residents, but also to visitors.
Tourism is Nevada’s biggest industry. We can’t underestimate the value of the aesthetic in drawing visitors who leave their tourism dollars behind. The alternative to that artwork is a bland, industrial landscape that makes both residents and visitors wonder why anyone would want to be here.
My personal relief in this freeway extension is my biggest reason for celebrating it. This extension means I’m safer as a motorcycle rider when I need to get south of town, whether it’s for business or the pleasure of riding the Sierra passes. Until now, I faced extremely high-risk surface streets to accomplish that task. We’re talking huge six-lane roads with bad pavement, intense cross-traffic, and often blind intersections and driveways. It’s a rider’s nightmare.
Freeways are certainly not where the fun of riding lies for me but there are times when that’s a more appropriate route. The controlled traffic, going in the same direction, without intersections, means I can get to where I’m going with much less stress and risk.
What I’d like to see next
I’m happy that I’ll be safer as a rider in town now. But watching the amazing turnout of people at this event has me thinking the next step for this lovely city is giving us a robust system of non-motorized-friendly paths and trails to move around town.