Frank Fisher
Special to the Bonanza

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March 27, 2013
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15 months after fatal crash, no timeline for crosswalk upgrades

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — More than a year after a married couple died when they were hit by a vehicle in an unlit crosswalk, the Nevada Department of Transportation has no timeline to complete planned safety improvements.

On the evening of Dec. 30, 2011, Incline residents Robert C. Mathis and Linda Mathis were struck and killed near the crosswalk next to the Tahoe Regional Transit Agency bus stop on Highway 28, in front of Radio Shack, east of the Village Boulevard intersection.

The driver of the vehicle, Christopher Torii Smith, of Grass Valley, Calif., is charged with two counts of driving under the influence of a prohibited substance causing death, according to previous reports, and could face between four and 40 years in prison for his alleged role.

Smith had trace amounts of marijuana in his system at the time of the incident, and he failed to yield to the right of way of the pedestrians, according to charging documents. According to previous reports, a trial date is set for May 20, 2013. Last summer, Smith pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Fifteen months after the fatal accident, Incline Village resident Frank Shipman prepared to cross Highway 28 at the same location at dusk on Monday.

“You’re taking your life into your own hands. I don’t care whether it is day or night,” said Shipman as he looked west into the glare of the sun. “At this time of day, the driver has to really be on his game to see a pedestrian.”

But, Shipman added, it’s also up to pedestrians to be especially careful.

Safety improvements

In June 2012, NDOT completed a road safety audit on the three Incline Village crosswalks on Highway 28, and recommendations were made for safety-related improvements at the crosswalk by Radio Shack, department spokesman Scott Magruder said this week.

“We plan to install overhead lighting and pedestrian-activated flashers,” Magruder said. “They definitely get your attention.”

NDOT also plans to relocate the now-unlit crosswalk near Christmas Tree Village closer to a nearby TART bus stop that already has better lighting, Magruder said. The department will install pedestrian-activated flashers there as well.

The third crosswalk on Highway 28, at the Southwood/Northwood intersection near the Incline Skate Park, already has pedestrian-activated flashers, and no changes are planned by NDOT, Magruder said.

Fifteen months after the fatal incident and nine months after the safety audit, the two crosswalks remain unchanged, and Magruder said he didn’t know when safety improvements will be made.

“We (NDOT) still feel they are safe crosswalks,” he added. “We haven’t had any other pedestrians hit in Incline crosswalks, or calls of any problems.”

Improvements to each crosswalk would cost roughly $100,000. While maintenance and utility bills related to the improvements may be paid by the Washoe County Department of Public Works, Magruder said NDOT still has to allocate much of the funding.

“We haven’t identified funding for the crosswalks,” Magruder said. “We haven’t gotten to that point.”

As for state project priorities, Magruder said, “Crosswalk funding is in there with other NDOT  projects. We don’t have any, ranking per se.”

Magruder said he did not know when funding might be identified for the crosswalks or when the project might be completed.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Mar 27, 2013 06:53PM Published Apr 2, 2013 09:29AM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.