Pending approval by the Nevada Department of Transportation, Douglas County officials are planning to bust open the now infamous Walmart median in south Gardnerville to allow left turns onto Service Drive for at least two months until the superstore opens in early January.
"We've asked Walmart to essentially move out of the way and let Douglas County take the lead on this effort," County Manager Steve Mokrohisky told commissioners Thursday.
The rescue measure of sorts will not come without some costs to taxpayers.
County Engineer Erik Nilssen estimated that a temporary median would cost about $50,000, give or take. If cost estimates run too high, county commissioners would have to hold a special meeting to approve a contract, as the county manager would no longer be able to approve it administratively.
"We all have to understand this is a very fluid situation," said Commissioner Greg Lynn.
The county recently hired RO Anderson Engineering to develop a concept design for the temporary improvement, which was submitted to NDOT on Thursday. If the concept is approved, the county would then ask to amend an existing encroachment permit, hoping the permit review process would be expedited within a week.
Assuming the project goes forward, left turns would be temporarily prohibited at the new intersection with Grant Avenue. The full median would be re-installed before Walmart opens in January.
The county had requested the temporary break remain until six months after the store opens, when NDOT is expected to perform traffic verification and speed limit studies, but that idea was rejected.
"We cannot hold up the opening because of that (temporary median)," said Community Development Director Mimi Moss.
The difference between now and when the store opens is the completion of Grant Avenue and a new road called Carrick Lane that will run between Grant and Service Drive. U-turns will be allowed at the new stoplight on Highway 395, the county said, and signage will advertise business access off Carrick Lane.
"I'm looking for a permanent solution to this that's better than a temporary solution," said Commissioner Doug Johnson. "We're going to be spending a lot of money on this. If we can't find a permanent solution, the businesses are still going to be affected."
They've already been affected, said Chairman Lee Bonner. He said that CarQuest has lost 40 percent of its customer flow and related sales since the median appeared, according to the store's owner.
Bonner also read a letter into the record from Susan Davila, the new CEO of Carson Valley Medical Center, in which she expressed concern for the estimated 40,000 patients who visit the hospital annually. She requested the establishment of a hospital zone with flashing lights, a lower speed limit along the highway, and speed bumps on Virginia Ranch Road.