Spooner barrier complete | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Spooner barrier complete

Michael Schneider

A concrete median divider designed to curb head-on collisions on the Spooner Grade is essentially complete, but not everyone is pleased with the final design.

The barrier is in place and construction crews are now removing covers and doing some clean-up work on site, according to Scott Magruder, Nevada Department of Transportation spokesperson.

Crews began the divider, part of an overall project to improve U.S. Highway 50 from Carson City to the California state line, after the first layer of paving was done in the Tahoe Basin early this fall. Part of the project included new paving from Spooner to Stateline.

The Spooner Grade stretch of Highway 50 is notorious for head-on collisions in winter weather.

Magruder said NDOT will be back in the basin next construction season to apply the final layer of asphalt and complete the overall project.

From the beginning, Magruder had said the barrier would be completed by mid-December.

“We’re right on schedule,” Magruder said.

Although it appeared to be a done deal in November, Magruder said NDOT has not yet consented to placing an additional one or maybe two breaks in the barrier for emergency vehicles.

When construction began on the barrier, emergency officials from Douglas and Carson counties complained the barrier would impede emergency vehicle’s ability to quickly access automobile crash scenes.

As is, the eight-mile barrier has only one break in the middle at a turnout with a pay phone.

Magruder said the barrier was built with only one break because more breaks could cause problems for civilians. There are limited areas with enough visibility to make a safe turnaround, Magruder said. Potential NDOT plans could include a gated break only for emergency personnel.

“I don’t know how you can prevent everything,” Douglas Sheriff Ron Pierini said Thursday, suggesting NDOT look at which option will provide the most benefit.

Pierini and Carson City Chief Deputy Bernie Curtis have been critical of the “one break” philosophy since construction began.

“If we had three, I’d be satisfied with that,” Pierini said. He said two more strategically-placed breaks should allow for an emergency turn-around about every two.

Curtis said he envisioned a scenario where accident victims on lower eastbound Highway 50 could experience a delay in emergency personnel reaching them. Should Carson City respond to the accident, emergency personnel would have to travel four miles up the grade to the break and turn around.

Curtis said that by the time Carson’s finest were going in the right direction, there would be a backlog of cars preceding the accident that would be difficult for emergency personnel to traverse.

Magruder said NDOT officials plan discuss additional breaks in the barrier over the coming weeks with Douglas and Carson, but, as of now, there is only the one halfway break.

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