NDOT helping with solutions

Pleasant Valley residents plagued by high-speed drivers will find much of the problem gone when I-580 is complete in late 2008.

The high-speed six-lane thoroughfare is expected to shoulder about 75 percent of the traffic now using the 8.5-mile stretch of Highway 395 from Bowers Mansion to Mount Rose Highway.

That's some 31,500 fewer vehicles a day on a road where residents have put up signs warning about the dangers of speeding.

"It's the busiest 8.5-mile stretch of high-speed road passing through a residential area in the state," said David Jones, a concerned resident and leader of the sign effort.

Since two fatal accidents occurred in that strip last August, NDOT has worked with residents to get drivers to slow down. Although the accidents were drug-related, it brought a storm of complaints from residents concerned about highway safety.

"This was actually a very proactive approach for us," said NDOT spokesman Scott Magruder. "One reason was because there was a lot of calls for us to install a center concrete divider."

The idea was not the best resolution and he met with residents to explain why and work on other solutions.

"The concrete barrier is not really such a good idea from an engineering standpoint," Magruder said. "People have to make a lot of U-turns. It becomes an obstacle. You are cutting out access."

Instead, the agency put rumble strips on either side of the middle turning lane throughout the entire stretch of road to alert drivers when they might be drifting, a modification of an earlier plan that called for rumble strips only in turning areas.

Larger-than-normal "50 mph" speed-limit signs were placed both northbound and southbound into the stretch, with the northbound signal accompanied by flashing lights.

This spring, flashing light installations near Pleasant Valley Elementary School will be ready for use by bus drivers to alert drivers when they are turning in and out of traffic.

NDOT is clearing back brush from the road, considering a restriping project and continually reviewing data in the area.

"I'm extremely proud," Jones said. "I've lived here for 30 years and so many people tell me you've got no chance with NDOT. I'll tell you, in less than 90 days miracles have happened."

According to Trooper Chuck Allen of the Nevada Highway Patrol, one fatality has occurred in the stretch since last August and that was due to driver error. Although Pleasant Valley and Washoe City are not high-accident areas for NHP - like the Spaghetti Bowl is in Reno - the agency wanted to help quell residents' concerns by being involved and patrols the road when units are available.

When I-580 is completed, residents could see a drop in traffic down to 10,000 vehicles a day. With such a drop, NDOT will consider an intersection with lights at 395 and East Lake Boulevard.

"With the new six-lane highway, existing 395 will become a country road," Magruder said.

n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.


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