Douglas County officials are protesting a plan to temporarily reduce a mile of Highway 50 to three lanes, including a turn lane, for a month starting toward the end of July.
The state plans to present the proposal to Douglas County commissioners before temporarily striping the highway and will continue to gather input, Nevada Department of Transportation Spokeswoman Meg Ragonese said on Monday.
“The temporary lane striping is a test of one component of potential future highway improvements proposed as part of NDOT’s U.S. 50 Tahoe East Shore Corridor Management Plan,” Ragonese said. “While the new lanes are in place, NDOT plans to gather traffic speed and safety data, as well as public feedback, to inform any potential future changes that may be made to highway lanes. NDOT will publish data and general public feedback collected on the demonstration project.”
Corridor Planning and Special Studies Program Lead Melissa Chandler sent a June 21 email outlining the plan for resuming work on a corridor study the state delayed earlier this year while it reviewed feedback from last fall’s public meetings.
“During that outreach and subsequent to it, a broad range of feedback was received,” Chandler wrote. “This includes those who feel the recommendations will cause gridlock and those who feel something must be done to improve safety. Given the wide variety and sometimes passionate response, NDOT and the study team took time following the fall 2022 outreach to synthesize the feedback, discuss challenges and consider the next steps.”
The state proposes to reduce Highway 50 to two lanes, with a turn lane from just south of Zephyr Cove Resort to north of Round Hill Pines through the month of August.
Community Services Director Scott Morgan replied on behalf of the county, lodging a formal protest that there was insufficient time to respond to the plan.
“Douglas County believes that these actions are inconsistent with the Charter which states public outreach is a vital component to the Corridor Management Plan,” Morgan wrote. “I am asking that NDOT delay this decision until such time as our residents have had an opportunity to weigh in on your proposed plan of action. Please consider this a conflict to be resolved under the current charter document signed by Douglas County on Jan. 20, 2022. Further we wish to have a presentation which will be agendized for action during the July 20 County Board of Commissioners meeting.”
When the state confirmed it was delaying work on the corridor plan in January, Ragonese said it was to sift through the reaction received at 50 stakeholder meetings and had 775 interactions with those stakeholders and members of the public.
Most public concerns have dealt with the reduction in the number of lanes on the highway.
Work on the highway is constrained by geography with sections of the winding route between Stateline and Spooner Summit having nothing but two yellow lines separating opposing traffic lanes.
Ragonese said on average, more than 100 crashes occur every year on the corridor, almost a third of which are documented to have speed as a contributing factor and much of the corridor exceeds statewide average crash rates for similar facilities.
While one of the deadliest stretches of road in Douglas County, most fatalities on the highway are the result of intoxicated drivers, one of whom was sentenced to 108-272 months in prison last week.