Airport intersection under scrutiny |

Airport intersection under scrutiny

by Sheila Gardner
Kurt HildebrandThe intersection at Airport Road and Highway 395 is being studied by the Nevada Department of Transportation for a traffic control.

Douglas County commissioners directed staff Thursday to continue work with state officials studying whether the deadly intersection at Airport Road and Highway 395 deserves a traffic signal.

The board heard Thursday from Tom Moore, assistant chief traffic engineer for the Nevada Department of Transportation.

“Traffic signals are an extremely emotional subject,” Moore said. “I understand and sympathize with people who are directly affected by these accidents.”

He said it was NDOT’S job to balance a timely commute with safety aspects.

“When a request for a signal comes in, the very first thing we do is go out and obtain the (traffic) counts. Federal law has very specific requirements. That means we can consider a traffic signal, but it might not be appropriate. We are going to install an appropriate traffic control at that location,” Moore said.

He reviewed the installation of a roundabout 10 years ago at Highway 88 and County Road in Minden.

He said the roundabout cost three times the amount of a traffic signal, but it was the most appropriate response to the location.

Moore said a traffic study was conducted at the Airport Road intersection in 2006, and the warrants were met. A new study is in the works.

“The warrants will tell them whether or not a signal can be considered for that location,” said Jeff Foltz, Douglas County senior civil engineer.

In his report to commissioners, Foltz said the primary issue is sight distance. Drivers waiting to turn left from Airport Road onto Highway 395 southbound have their view of oncoming traffic blocked by vehicles in the northbound right-turn lane at Airport Road.

The result, Foltz said, is that vehicles turning left onto the highway are hit broadside by the northbound vehicles in the through lanes.

One solution would be to relocate the northbound right-turn lane approximately 12 feet east. That requires acquisition of additional right-of-way, which Foltz said could take two years.

Installation of a traffic signal could be done sooner, but he said traffic signals often result in more rear-end accidents and increased traffic delays.

Since December 2010, there have been six accidents at the intersection including a fatality on July 18, 2011.

“We want to keep the traffic moving and make sure we’re doing it in the safest possible manner,” Moore said.