Highway safety group to field resident concerns

A grassroots group responsible for homemade signs demanding drivers slow down on Highway 395 will hold a public workshop Saturday morning for residents to voice concerns and brainstorm solutions to highway traffic problems.

The three-hour workshop, broken up into several sections, will include question-and- answer sessions, presentations and interviews with emergency-services personnel, technical staff from the Nevada Department of Transportation and public transportation representatives from the Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission.

The intense workshop, referred to as a "charrette," will be moderated by Community Partners Facilitator Sue Newberry, a traffic safety expert hired by NDOT.

"It's really important for people to come to this first workshop," she said.

She said participants will work together to come up with solutions to every problem presented by residents, including speed, complaints about road construction and funding constraints.

State Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, Washoe County Commission candidate Lynn Atchison and Washoe County Commissioner Pete Sferrazza, a candidate for family court judge, are also scheduled to appear.

Highway 395 South Safety Movement leader David Jones stirred up public interest in August when he and a group of Pleasant Valley residents petitioned NDOT to improve safety measures.

Jones said motorists don't obey the 50 mph speed limit signs, and his group is tired of accidents they say are caused by speeders.

The group wanted NDOT to install a stoplight at Laramie Drive and Highway 395 South, place oversized speed limit signs with flashing yellow lights along the highway, and hanging yellow lights and concrete jersey walls at various highway intersections.

Nevada Highway Patrol and NDOT officials said recent fatal accidents on the highway were not caused by speed, but by reckless drivers. However, Jones said many other less severe accidents he and his neighbors have witnessed are caused by speed.

Engineers with NDOT supported the idea of larger speed limit signs, but said most of the other changes were impractical and that additional jersey walls would even pose a safety hazard.

In response to Jones' petition, NDOT Director Jeff Fontaine implemented a safety audit concentrated on Highway 395 between College Parkway and Mount Rose Highway and hired Newberry to facilitate discussion.

To date, the Highway 395 safety group has posted 20 signs along Highway 395 asking motorists to slow down. They plan to put up more.

Scott Magruder, public information officer for NDOT, said traffic problems on Highway 395 will most likely be solved with the completion of the Interstate 580 extension in 2008.

"This workshop will address what we can do about traffic problems in the meantime," he said.

The workshop is from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Pleasant Valley Elementary School, 405 Surrey Drive, Reno.

For information, call Community Partners at 841-6820 visit www.nevadadot.com/pub_involvement /meetings. Call the safety group at 849-8271.

Contact reporter Robyn Moormeister at rmoormeister@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.


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