Letters to the Editor June 15, 2016
June 15, 2016
Signals not the answer
At the June 2 board of county commissioners meeting, a presentation by NDOT Deputy Director Bill Hoffman provided an overview of several future transportation projects for the Carson Valley. One of the most significant was a discussion regarding the Airport Road intersection. Clearly, this intersection requires improvement. Toward that end, NDOT will be moving the north-bound right turn/deceleration lane in federal fiscal year 2017 to allow for better visibility, which will hopefully reduce accidents. Deputy Director Hoffman stated that NDOT was looking at several more options for future improvements at that intersection, which may include a traffic light.
Commissioner McDermid suggested that a light should be placed at Muller Lane and Highway 395 as well because traffic from Lake Tahoe is directed from Kingsbury Grade north, down Foothill, then to Muller Lane. For persons continuing north up Highway 395 this requires a dangerous left turn onto the highway. Another person stated a traffic light is also required right now at Lucerne and Highway 395, the Sonic intersection.
The problem with adding more and more traffic signals goes beyond the discussion about travel delays because of the stop and start nature of the signals, and what citizen Jim Slade said regarding the the local populace's tolerance for stop lights at every intersection. That problem is air quality.
When I was the Assistant Chief for the DMV&PS Bureau of Enforcement, I was responsible for the statewide vehicle emission program. As you know, only Washoe and Clark counties are currently in what is termed, "non-attainment" status. That means those counties are required by the federal EPA to have vehicle emission control inspections (smog checks) and to implement other air quality controls. The Carson Valley is currently free from these requirements.
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Air quality in the Valley is a function of several dynamic factors, principal among them are geography and weather. The Valley is surrounded by mountains, which tend to hold air masses in place during calm to light wind conditions. During several months each year, a temperature inversion traps stagnant air for days, sometimes weeks, on end. The quality of our air is reduced by cars, trucks, wood and field burning, dust, construction, and turbine aircraft traffic. These factors all combine to reduce air quality, but the biggest concern is vehicle pollution.
By adding more and more traffic signals, vehicles are forced to stop, idle, then accelerate to the next signal. This is the worst scenario for the generation of vehicle emissions, especially during winter months when vehicles tend to pollute more. If we're not careful, the growth in the numbers of vehicles using our roads, combined with an inefficient traffic control plan, geography and weather, could move the Carson Valley into "non-attainment."
I am not advocating that we should never add a traffic signal if that is the best solution for reducing or eliminating accidents or death. But I am suggesting that measures other than traffic signals should be considered first. Such measures might include reduced speeds, acquisition of right-of-ways to allow for longer turning and merging lanes, and possibly, overpasses. Bypass or loop roads also contribute to the efficient movement of traffic. Let's keep our air quality in the "good" range by being cautious of quick solutions to problems that might lead to bigger problems down the road.
Many can't vote for commission
Every time I read an article, see an ad or view an election sign, I get a little angry. It is more than unfair that the only people who will choose our local county commissioners are the registered Republicans. If you are registered as another party or non-partisan, you are unable to have your vote counted. I believe in our right to vote and be counted. This system has left many of our citizens disenfranchised. Sure, we could have registered as Republican in time to vote in the primary and then re-register but I think that is an unfair burden. Currently, there are 17,884 registered Republicans in Douglas County and 15,593 voters registered as Democrats, Libertarian and nonpartisan. That is nearly half of all voters in Douglas County who will have no voice in the county commissioner election. Does that sound unfair to anyone else?