State transportation officials hope new rumble strips will reduce serious accidents and fatalities along nearly 10 miles of Highway 50 East from Arrowhead Drive in Carson City to just east of the State Road 341 turnoff for Virginia City.
The Nevada Department of Transportation reported last week that it is working closely with Lyon County to install the centerline strips, which are designed to alert drivers and prevent cross-over crashes. Weather permitting, the installation project will begin Dec. 19, with the majority of work performed during weekday daytime hours with up to 20-minute delays and single-lane closures.
Lyon County Commissioner Chuck Roberts, whose District 1 encompasses Mound House, Silver City and most of Dayton, said he has lived in the area for more than 25 years and has definitely seen the worst that the stretch of highway has to offer.
"I've counted about 20 fatalities between Dump Hill and the Dayton Hill in that time, and while the rumble strips are part of a solution to that problem, they're not the end-all," Roberts said. "There is a lot of cross traffic, a lot of traffic entering the highway in that area, a lot of large truck traffic, and general traffic congestion."
Since 2005, there have been at least 200 collisions along the stretch, with nearly half of those producing injuries, according to NDOT reports. Since June 2010, at least six people have been killed in four accidents along the stretch in Mound House.
Most of the bad accidents have occurred between 6 and 8 a.m. and between 5 and 7 p.m., said Lyon County Manager Jeff Page.
"Speed is definitely a factor, but the really bad accidents have been head-ons, so the rumble strips are designed to wake people up and prevent cross-overs," Page said. "We met in July or August with NDOT, the Nevada Highway Patrol and some of our county folks, and there are plans for a couple of interchanges three to five years up the road, but in the meantime, we've asked the NHP for stronger enforcement, and they're doing a hell of a job out there.
"The interchanges will eventually get a lot of traffic off Highway 50, but the rumble strips will get people to pay attention for now."
Rumble strips consist of parallel grooves cut into the centerline of a roadway. When drivers veer out of their lane, tires running over the strips produce sound and vibration.
David Moretta of Dayton, a retired ruck driver, said he isn't convinced the strips will solve the problem.
"I don't think it will help, because the problem is it's so hard to get on and off the highway through this area," Moretta said. "You have a lot of trouble getting across Highway 50. I think they need to put in caution lights or turn lanes. I used to work for a construction company building roads, so I've seen a lot safety problems, and cross traffic is a big one."
Another Dayton resident, Liz Power, is also skeptical about rumble strips.
"Is that what they're thinking? There are a lot of really bad accidents out there. I think they should put in a frontage road. That way, people can all come in at one spot instead of 15," she said.
Power also would rather see a concrete barrier down the middle of the highway to cut down on the carnage.
"All I know is that it's a mess out there right now," she said.
Dayton resident Claire Clift said she travels the route twice daily because she works in Carson City and that it is only a matter of time before a fatality occurs as a result of the wild horse strikes.
"My biggest concern is with the wild horses. We haven't done anything about their safety or our safety. They should just fence it off," she said.
She also said a centerline barrier would be a better solution to head-on collisions.
"Rumble strips sound like an economic alternative," Clift said.
By alerting motorists and allowing them to correct their vehicles, head-on crashes can be reduced, said Meg Ragonese, a spokeswoman for NDOT.
"The Highway 50 rumble strips - and the rumble strips that have been installed across the state - are aimed at helping to save lives," she said.
Motorists traveling between Carson City and Reno encounter both rumble strips and centerline barriers, mainly through Pleasant Valley.
Roberts called traffic safety systemic, adding that contributing factors include education, attitudes of the community, enforcement and types of highway dividers.
"These all add to the overall safety of that corridor," he said.
Roberts said he was instrumental in getting the speed reduced to 45 mph through the corridor after a neighbor was killed in a traffic accident there but agrees more needs to be done.