Minden's proposed roundabout can handle anything the community throws at it: inexperienced drivers, tractor trailer rigs, teenage pranksters and emergency vehicles.
That was the upshot of a two-hour presentation Wednesday night by Nevada Department of Transportation officials to 85 residents, many of whom wanted to know why the busy intersection at Highway 88 and County Road can't have a traffic light.
Fred Droes, chief safety/traffic engineer for the department, fielded questions for about 90 minutes and endured occasional catcalls and derisive laughter from residents unconvinced the roundabout would work.
Pending approval, the roundabout should be completed in late August at the intersection, which provides access to Douglas High School, the Carson Valley Swim Center, the East Fork Fire and Paramedics Districts station, county library and several businesses.
Droes said the intersection is considered a "high crash" location by the state with 27 accidents reported from May 2000 to January 2006.
That included nine injury accidents and 18 property-damage-only accidents.
Droes said the state's mission is to improve safety and pedestrian access at the site and reduce speeds.
Options are to do nothing or change vehicle movement by installation of the roundabout, or a four-way stop sign which officials said increases delay time, and is not pedestrian-friendly.
"When drivers are trying to keep track of who goes next, they're not looking for pedestrians," Droes said.
He repeated the department's stance that the intersection does not meet federal requirements for a traffic signal.
"We've been doing studies since 1995 and it still doesn't meet the criteria. It's not in the tool box as an option," Droes said.
That prompted a handful of speakers to present statistics they claim show the average daily traffic far exceeds the rate at Highway 88 and Mottsville/Waterloo, which has a signal.
Droes said the number and severity of injury accidents at Mottsville prompted the traffic signal.
Gardnerville resident Myrna Morris asked for assurance that high school students would use the roundabout appropriately. She said she'd already overheard conversations that youthful drivers planned to enter the roundabout and stay there.
"It's not illegal to drive round and round, but it gets pretty boring after two or three times," Droes said.
He said he had been meeting with school officials to create an awareness program for students.
Audience members began calling out comments halfway through the evening prompting Minden town board member Bob Hadfield to ask participants to "please not kill the messenger."
"Obviously, there are some very strong feelings here," Hadfield said. "The town board requested the state make a presentation to better see and hear the proposal. Please don't get argumentative."
Asked if the roundabout would be removed if traffic didn't improve at the intersection, Droes said the traffic device would be monitored for three years.
Minden resident Dianne Jennings said she was "less of a pessimist" about the proposal.
""What you presented is not promising a perfect fix," Jennings said. "But it's definitely better than doing nothing and better than a four-way stop."
At the conclusion of the state's presentation, Hadfield asked for a show of hands from the 40 or so who still remained.
About three hands went up when he asked if residents wanted the intersection to stay the same. Less than a dozen favored a four-way stop and the rest supported the roundabout.
"There is no solution to meet every need," Hadfield said. "What we all want is some kind of improvement to make driving better."
If the state receives the go-ahead from the town and county commissioners, Droes said contracts would be advertised in two weeks with bids to be opened in May.
He said construction of the $500,000 roundabout would begin after school lets out in June and be completed before students return in August.
Droes said federal funds pay 95 percent and the state pays the rest.
The town is being asked for permission for the state to make improvements on Mahogany Drive for the intersection.
State officials will seek right-of-way from the county commission for improvements to County Road.
The Minden Town Board is set to take action at a 7 p.m. meeting Wednesday on a contract with the state to make improvements to Mahogany Drive for the proposed roundabout.
Anyone wishing to comment may do so:
• by e-mail at email@example.com;
• by telephone at 782-5976;
• by contacting a Minden board member;
• or during public comment at the meeting at the CVIC Hall, Esmeralda Avenue.