Outcry over risky U.S. 50 grows

YERINGTON - Claiming an emergency exists, Lyon County commissioners backed an effort to widen the highway between Fernley and Fallon.

Commissioners this week agreed to forward two resolutions and related petitions to the Nevada Department of Transportation requesting they set a date of January 2002, or sooner, to begin acting on the expansion of four lanes of Highway 50 East, from Dayton to Silver Springs, and Highway 50A between Fernley and Fallon.

Commission Chairman LeRoy Goodman said getting the resolutions to the Jan. 9, 2001 State Transportation Board meeting would at least get the process started.

"This would be a start of negotiations and bring their attention to us as the fastest growing county in the state. Director Tom Stephens said he would get the process started if we got this to them," Goodman told the board.

Noting it is where the bulk of the traffic remains, Goodman said Stephens has now agreed to put the widening of Highway 50 from Smith's Market to LaFond back on the status report.

According to the Fernley resolution, there have been approximately 105 accidents, resulting in 15 deaths, in the past five years on the stretch of 50A between Fernley and Fallon.

Speaking to Highway 50 concerns, Stagecoach resident LaVancha Downing pleaded with the commissioners to pursue getting the "Old schedule of starting by 2002," reinstated.

She is circulating two petitions: One to widen highway 50 and place stop lights at the intersection of the highway and 95A in Silver Springs; and a second requesting a left-turn lane at the Stagecoach Market. Hoping to present them at the Jan. 9 meeting, she had collected approximately 800 signatures as of Friday.

"The road is just so scary and I am really disappointed the widening project is being put off. And the Stagecoach Market is the only place drivers do not have a turn-out. There are 500 people a day using the store," She told the board.

A letter from Stagecoach Store owners Nirmal and Peter Nagra said the left turn situation is critical.

"Many of our customers turn left to enter our store. Roads with hardly any homes have left turn-outs, yet with so many customers per day we are left without a turn-out resulting in, so far, many accidents, almost six coming close to death," the letter noted.

Commenting after the meeting, Downing said a near crash between her husband's car and an oncoming vehicle caused her to become proactively involved in the issue.

"My husband almost got killed on 10-mile hill (between Dayton and Stagecoach) when an oncoming car came over into his lane to pass. It happens all the time on that hill."

She said she will also be working with local Sheriff's deputies to make the state aware of a "blind spot" in a passing zone on the east side of the hill.

State transportation spokesman Scott McGruder said Friday neither of the highways has been removed from the state list, but priorities may have been adjusted.

"We are planning to widen both highways, but it is not going to happen immediately. We will address all issues at our Jan. 9 board meeting," he said "We realize the area is growing. There have been a number of high profile fatalities, but there are limited funds available. We are going to consider all possibilities and information."

According to McGruder, widening the 22 miles from Dayton to Silver Springs will cost approximately $32 million. The Fernley to Fallon project is estimated at $40 million.

McGruder was unaware of the Silver Springs stoplight and the Stagecoach turnout requests. He said they are not on the department's lists, but concerns would be taken into consideration.

The Nevada Department of Transportation Board will meet in Carson City on Jan. 9, 2001, beginning at 1 p.m.

Downing said petitions are located in Silver Springs at Piper's Casino, Village Market and Hanal's Hardware; in Stagecoach at That Ramsey Place Cafe, Shenandougha Pizza and Stagecoach Market; in Dayton at Carson Plain's Market, Connie's Copy Center, Dayton Market and S & S Mini Market.


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