On Politics: Time to address flaws with Incline Village roundabout (opinion)
If you have lived here any length of time you will remember the old traffic bottleneck at the intersection of Nevada Routes 431 and 28.
Returning from Reno the twisty, winding road ascending the Sierra Nevada’s eastern terminus abruptly straightened at Mt. Rose’s 9,000 foot pass into a mostly straight road down a gentle slope with magnificent views of the lake until it ended at Tahoe’s edge.
And there it was … a stop sign. If you wanted to go east to the post office or Raley’s during tourist season or a long weekend you waited … and you waited some more for the cross traffic to lessen.
Huh? What’s a discussion of highways and stop signs doing in an “On Politics” column? A lot. Read on.
Many of us complained of the delays. The idea of a roundabout originated with locals Jim Nowlin and Don Kanare but it took the Tahoe Transportation District (TTD) to persuade the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) to set aside funds for a roundabout project at that intersection.
Step one was to flush out any potential objections to the proposal (see how politics always gets into the mix?) so TTD engaged local marketing guru Lee Weber Koch. Lee contacted me and asked me to recruit Nowlin and Kanare and we became a committee, giving presentations on the proposed roundabout to service clubs and other groups.
We found that the few skeptics were easily persuaded that a roundabout was a better solution than a stop light and so the project came to life.
NDOT’s plans for the center of the roundabout were drought resistant plants and a replica of a bear that, at least in the rendering, looked to have been fashioned from beer cans.
“That’s not Incline,” both Kanare and Nowlin said, and so the Incline Roundabout Public Art nonprofit was formed. Local sculptor June Brown was recruited to conceptualize life-size bronzes of local fauna (the flora was supposed to take care of itself) and Incline/Crystal Bay residents were invited to fund all or part of a bronze animal to be displayed in the roundabout’s center.
The reception was heart-warming. All the planned bronzes were funded by local residents, some as memorials and others as contributions to public art.
As a roundabout, NDOT planned it pretty well. It was large enough to handle the traffic load and, unlike Kings Beach’s roundabouts, it easily accommodated fire vehicles.
Originally two lanes led into it but it became a raceway so the second lane was blocked off. No irrigation or electricity was planned for the center but NDOT assured the public that their plants would not need water.
That all transpired in 2014. How have things progressed in the interim?
The first casualty was the landscaping. As any local resident could have predicted the “drought resistant plants” were overcome by aggressive, thorn-ridden natural growth which grew to obscure the bronze statuary as well. In one sense it had the natural look of a Sierra thicket but onlookers could only see an occasional bronze animal part instead of entire animals.
And in that time frame at least three bronze animals have been hit by errant automobiles. NDOT wants nothing to do with these challenges.
The Public Art Committee wants to see something like NDOT’s new U.S. 50 / Interstate 580 interchange in Carson City with weed growth barrier topped by granite rocks with a few evergreen ground-hugging plants and a pine tree or two so the bronzes are featured for onlooker viewing.
One last thing: Install strategically placed boulders to protect the bronzes from errant drivers.
So here’s where the politics comes in. We’re going to need everyone’s help, including Incline’s state senator, Ben Kieckhefer, and Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner, to get this done.
Are ya with us?
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada State GOP Central committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.