Archive for April, 2018

USA Parkway Nevada Route 439 Option

If you are looking for a shortcut between Reno and Silver Springs, the USA Parkway, Nevada route 439 (wikipedia) might save you ten miles. Whether it will save time is another matter. KOLO TV says “The parkway is projected to reduce travel times by as much as 38% for people traveling between U.S. 50 and I-80.”

Route 439 is a four lane divided boulevard between I80 and US50 to provide transportation services to the warehouses and manufacturing facilities at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center (TRIC). It is considered a “Minor Rural Arterial” (NDOT Report). Here is what the report says about time savings:

“Once USA Parkway is fully built from I-80 through to US 50, the distance between Reno and Silver Springs will be reduced by about 10 miles. It is believed that most of the travel between these two locations will use the new USA Parkway. The average velocity on the existing route on US 95A, through Fernley then on I 80, is 60 mph. The new USA Parkway will have a posted speed limit of 50 mph so that was chosen for the average velocity

The reality after construction is that the first few miles with the most congestion has a 35 mph speed limit and much of the rest is 45 mph. In addition, most of the route is up and down hills. The grade on these hills is like going over Donner Summit on I80 or heading north from Reno on US395. With an RV or heavy vehicle, you will need to keep in mind the drag going up hill and the push going down. The road has been subject to controls during storms over the last two winters. 

The ‘old’ route to Fernley and down Alt US95 has a shorter congestion path, excellent gas prices, and only one grade of note. It is freeway and highway with higher speed limits than the boulevard. This route may have a lower wild horse hazard as it is better fenced and, it seems, the folks in the TRIC seem to think horses wandering around is a feature and not a bug.

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Automatic route planning – a 32% grade?

You may have seen stories about neighborhoods being annoyed by social traffic apps routing around congestion into their streets. Here’s one: Waze’s crazy routing over a 32% grade road is driving residents nuts by Cyrus Farivar – “I’ve seen five or six cars smash into other cars, and it’s getting worse.” No, it’s not Route 89 around Zephyr Cove or San Francisco somewhere, it’s in Los Angeles.

It’s a common story: small towns and residents living on once-quiet streets are sometimes annoyed by the influx of traffic that Waze, traffic wayfinding apps, and ride-hailing services have wrought.

But residents along Baxter Street in Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighborhood—reportedly one of the steepest streets in America (comprising two major hills)—are now banding together to try to change local traffic patterns. Neighbors have contacted city officials and Waze’s parent company, Google, to try to mitigate the problem.

They believe that a lot of drivers are using Baxter as a way to avoid Glendale Boulevard, a nearby thoroughfare.

That might be an OK detour for a commuter but it highlights a problem with automatic routing for RV’s. Even if you use satellite views you might not see the grade. 

Back in the day, the kids could grab a free map at the gas station to see where they were and how they were going to get to their vacation destination. Those maps only had major routes and highways with very little detail and nothing about local roads and city streets. These days, the navigation applications have a lot of detail about roads including those planned but not yet built, speed limits, and whatever else can be scraped from user map edits (see the Open Street Map project), state and local map data, and other sources (e.g. the Census Bureau TIGER). Don’t forget web sites about low clearance roads, either (e.g. Low Clearance Bridges and Overpasses: How to Watch for and Avoid). Then there’s the satellite views and street views that get melded into the maps. 

So we are, or can be, buried in a mass of data and detail. This is an opportunity for exploration but it is also a risk. When you get off the beaten path or on to unknown trails and roads, take care you don’t find yourself on a dead end or facing a 32% grade or other RV hazard.

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Gas asphyxiation and tire troubles in the news

In the news are two stories where careful reading and consideration is needed to avoid jumping to inappropriate conclusions.

Propane gas killed Iowa family vacationing in Mexico, police say — Las Vegas Review Journal. A cause of death in several old Perry Mason shows results from the murderer turning off the pilot light on a gas heater. What happens is that the oxygen in the room is replaced with methane or propane and the sleeping victim dies from lack of oxygen. Since the victim can expel CO2, there is no strangulation struggle. Preventing suicides this way is why helium balloon tanks often come with 20% air these days. The question is why the odorant in the propane was not noticed.

In the RV world, this is why gas appliances have the combustion path outside and why some catalytic or other heaters that burn fuel inside have oxygen depletion sensors and why the stove says it is not to be used for space heating.

Goodyear Knew Of Dangerous RV Tire Failures For Over 20 Years: Court Docs by Ryan Felton — There is an understandable tendency to blame tire (and other) failures on the manufacturer rather than to consider poor maintenance or improper use. Sometimes it is difficult to determine exactly why a failure occurred, especially if it takes time to develop. Goodyear motorhome tires, the G159 275/70R 22.5 seems particularly problematical and people have been going after Goodyear for its failures and damages for years.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. received failure claims over a tire that was installed on thousands of RVs and is linked to at least nine deaths, dozens of injuries, and hundreds of crashes as early as 1996, the first year it was manufactured and installed on motorhomes, according to court documents obtained exclusively by Jalopnik. The documents also show that Goodyear appears to have vastly underreported the number of failure claims it had received over the tire to federal regulators during a previous inquiry more than a decade ago, and confirm the tire is almost certainly still on the road today.

One problem with these stories is that it is difficult to properly place the complaint. It does cover suggested causes of failure but that doesn’t really refute the manufacturer’s claims. It doesn’t provide any information to properly weigh the significance of the rate of failure or other relevant variables. It doesn’t even provide judgments from court proceedings being that it a story about the issue going to court based on the complaint.

What you can learn from what is known so far: (1) don’t take shortcuts with RV energy sources and (2) take care of your tires and monitor them closely.

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