No timetable issued for Highway 50 widening
DAYTON – Despite some barbed comments from county elected officials, state highway officials on Monday offered no immediate date for the widening of Highway 50 east of Dayton.
Speaking to a gathering of about two dozen residents and county officials, Nevada Department of Transportation Chief Safety and Traffic Engineer Fred Droes refused to commit to a specific timetable for safety measures along the well-traveled route, but promised immediate attention would be given to specific concerns.
He said he will lead a tour of the route on Feb. 21 to make an assessment of possible short-term, inexpensive measures.
“There will be a brief report of short term solutions. Within a month we should have a pretty good indication of what we can and cannot do.”
He will report his findings at a community meeting scheduled for April 2.
He said he had no answer to why the widening of Highway 50 to four lanes was dropped off the schedule in August 2000.
“Projects have been adjusted according to current cash flow, but I can’t say for sure why this project has been moved back. The state is struggling with funding everywhere. It appears to have fallen off without reason.”
Commissioner LeRoy Goodman asked how the $9.5 million, most of it federal funding, designated for the project could simply disappear.
“Did this money go to I-80, the Carson bypass, the Serpa lawsuit?” he asked Droes. “It disappeared because of bull with NDOT. Nobody has an explanation.”
Goodman noted that other rural parts of the state may be growing, but “the rest of rural Nevada does not and will not have the growth we have here.”
Commissioner Bob Milz wanted to know when the project would be put back on the schedule.
“You told us you were going to one thing and then changed your mind. We want to know exactly what you are going to do. And if Director (Tom) Stephens comes to the Lyon County Commission, it is a waste of time because he is not going to tell the truth,” he charged.
Michelle Gardner-Lilly, of the NDOT Program Development Division, assured attendees, “We have had to move a number of projects around the state because of funding shortfalls. This is not just in Lyon County.”
Residents suggested a number of measures until the highway is widened: mandate vehicles turn headlights on during daylight hours; placement by the Nevada Highway Patrol of lighted reader boards warning of increased traffic monitoring ahead; increased highway patrols; building of left hand turn lanes at dangerous intersections, particularly at the Stagecoach Market; traffic lights at the intersection of Highways 50 and 95A in Silver Springs; and the elimination of a blind spot in the passing zone at Ten-Mile Hill west of Stagecoach.
Highway Patrol officials said lowering the speed limit would not be feasible, noting it could double the number of vehicles passing unsafely.
Leader of a citizen’s committee to widen Highway 50, Stagecoach resident LaVancha Downing said the Ten-Mile Hill blind spot and the Stagecoach Market left-hand turnout should be top priorities.
“The dip at the bottom of Ten-Mile Hill is such a simple thing that should have been done yesterday. And tomorrow we need a decision on when you are going to widen the Highway to Silver Springs.”
Droes agreed left hand turn lanes can save lives, but their cost of between $50,000 to $100,000 each prohibits the state from putting one every place they are needed.
Other residents noted residential development along the corridor would add to the already hazardous situation.
Nevada Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Pat McGill said troopers would do what they can to help alleviate traffic dangers. When money allowed it, he would like to add patrols with overtime shifts. If enough calls are received, the department’s Special Enforcement Detail can also be deployed to hazardous areas of the state. Residents can call 688-2500, No. 3, to request services.
Residents may also call *NHP (*647) on cell phones to report reckless drivers.
“Don’t just call and hang up. Make sure you stay on the line to give a description of the offender’s car or license plate.”
McGill said education is also very important and offered to speak to any organization regarding safe driving skills and traffic safety.
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