Highways being overwhelmed by growth

Want to see the consequences of growth? Drive Highway 50 to Dayton. Drive Highway 395 through Carson City. Drive the Spaghetti Bowl in Reno. Drive pretty much anywhere in Las Vegas.

If you're careful and lucky, you'll get through without an accident. But during many times of the day, you won't get through very quickly or smoothly.

The Nevada Department of Transportation is holding meetings now to get ideas on what to do with Highway 50 through Lyon, the fastest-growing county (by percentage) in the state. We have no doubt NDOT representatives will get an earful about the dangers that exist today on the overloaded highway.

The tendency will be to blame NDOT for moving too slowly. Its report won't even be done by 2007.

What's really happened, however, is development has been allowed to occur far too rapidly for the highway system to handle it. That's not just the case in Lyon County but too many places in Nevada, as the examples above illustrate.

Although we're looking forward to driving on Carson City's new bypass this winter, the whole route won't be open until 2010. That's more than a decade after Douglas County was the fastest-growing county in the state.

The opening of the first half, from Lakeview Hill to Highway 50, essentially means Lyon County residents will have a straighter shot to South Reno - through the bottleneck that is Pleasant Valley. It'll be another three years before Interstate 580 makes the whole thing a freeway.

We learned last week that NDOT could be $2.4 billion short in its road-construction and maintenance budget between 2008 and 2014. Gov. Kenny Guinn has floated the possibility of an increase in the state gas tax.

Does that sound like growth is paying for itself? Or does that sound like local officials are being shortsighted in the true cost - in quality of life, as well as the pocketbook - of rapid development.

Put on the brakes, before we run into each other.


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