Dayton residents asked to voice traffic concerns

Lyon County Manager Jeff Page discusses safety on U.S. 50 during a meeting in Dayton on May 16, 2022.

Lyon County Manager Jeff Page discusses safety on U.S. 50 during a meeting in Dayton on May 16, 2022.
Jessica Garcia/Nevada Appeal

Retired Lyon County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Peebles estimates he worked nearly 50 fatal traffic accidents from vehicles since starting with the department in 1997.
Speaking out at Monday’s town hall discussing the area’s traffic problems at Dayton Calvary Chapel, Peebles said he had recovered two bodies and observed most of the accidents were due to driver inattention.
“I was living out here when (the U.S. 50) was a two-lane road, and one thing I don’t think we need is roundabouts,” he said to applause. “Over here, we call them the circus, and that’s what they are. People don’t know how to drive them.”
Lyon County Commissioner Ken Gray’s traffic safety meeting Monday addressing the challenges and solutions facing the Dayton community in improving its U.S. 50 corridor produced a full crowd. Gray said it was important for the county to “look our community in the eye” and help keep the local roads safer.
Representatives including County Manager Jeff Page, roads director Dustin Homan and Undersheriff Ed Kilgore and Nevada Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meg Ragonese, rural county liaison Colleen Unterbrink, scoping team member Laura Wise and principal engineer for project scoping Tara Smaltz presented priorities for addressing Dayton’s speeding and safety issues.
Unterbrink, a 16-year Lyon County resident, said statewide fatalities have increased by 40% since last year. The increasing growth from the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center has impacted Northern Nevada’s highways and traffic and created fluctuating speed limits and different patterns amongst the urban and rural communities, she added.
“When you are driving, really stop and think,” Unterbrink said. “When you’re speeding 10 to 15 mph above the limit, how much time are you really saving?”
Page said according to a University of Nevada, Reno traffic study the county commissioned in 2014, 60 to 70% of Lyon’s population leaves daily for work, adding to the congestion. But as the county works to attract the right commercial and industrial businesses to the area, it also must find the right housing developments to keep up with the growth, and there’s no short-term fix, he said.
“What we discovered is people who are leaving here are vested in their jobs,” he said. “They’re not going to leave that job to come work here. Now we have people in Carson, Silver Springs, Fallon, Fernley driving here to come to work.
“We have a large portion of our traffic going in and out of Dayton,” Page said. “We have the same problem in Fernley. For those of you who remember e-tickets at Disneyland, it’s an e-ticket ride.”
Gray said he has tried asking the Nevada Legislature or law enforcement agencies about different solutions, including lowering the speed limits, but drivers won’t necessarily change their habits and that doing so won’t compel them to slow down anyway.
He reminded the audience that enforcement options are limited.
“People tell me, ‘The sheriff’s got to do his job,’ but the sheriff doesn’t work for us,” he said. “He is wholly, independently elected. … This is our personal responsibility as well.”
Daily traffic on some portions of the highway has increased from 18,500 vehicles in 2014 to approximately 21,000 in 2020, and NDOT made improvements to the highway, many of which are available for the public to view on the department’s website at www.dot.nv.gov. Livestock fencing has been made on both sides to mitigate collisions between cars and animals along State Route 341 to west of River Street near “Our Park” in Dayton, between Fortune Drive and western Occidental Drive and between Six Mile Canyon and Chaves Road.
To assist with growing traffic along the U.S. 50 from Pine Cone to Neigh roads, NDOT began conducting an operational study last year to analyze traffic patterns, future land use, residential and business development and other information to come up with three concepts to improve driver safety.
The “parkway” concept ultimately was decided upon as the most appropriate. NDOT determined it will cost about $50 million to widen the highway by three lanes in each direction from Pine Cone to east of Six Mile Canyon Road/Fort Churchill Road at a speed limit of 45 mph, in addition to keeping two lanes in each direction east of Fort Churchill to Neigh Road with 60 mph limits.
A series of intersection and signalized high-T controls also are planned with left turns from side streets to reduce potential crashes.
The highway was widened from a two-lane to a four-lane divided highway from Roy’s Road in Stagecoach to the U.S. 95A junction in Silver Springs. NDOT staff members constructed eight frontage roads
Other solutions included the installation of raised turn islands for protected turn pockets to and from the Dayton Smith’s shopping center on Retail Drive and a traffic signal at westbound U.S. 50 and Fortune Drive.
The town hall offered residents who attended an opportunity to provide public comment or ask questions, with many stating their worries about fatal crashes or wrecks, the need for more stoplights, questions about obtaining more local or federal funding, road maintenance and population growth and other factors contributing to the safety concerns.
Raymond Medeiros, a Dayton resident who has lived in the area before the Smith’s at 2200 U.S. 50 was, said he worries daily trying to leave his subdivision to take his daughters to school or to go to work as he exits onto the highway.
“I think we’re done waiting,” he told the officials Monday. “We’re fed up with the loss of life. I don’t think anyone wants to lose their loved ones.”
Monday’s meeting came on the cusp of the details released in the fatal crash involving driver Jakob Wingfield, 24, of Dayton, who died on scene on the U.S. 50 near Riverboat Road when his 2000 Volkswagen Jetta, traveling westbound in the first travel lane, crossed eastbound and struck a 2017 Ford Explorer. The Ford’s driver was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Others commented on concerns about fencing for the wild horses along the highway, flashing lights, easements and the need for improved defensive driving courses or acceleration or deceleration lanes.
Still, state agencies continue to work to find solutions. Ahead of Monday’s meeting, Gray said he had invited the Nevada State Police to participate in the town hall, but representatives could not be in attendance as the department requires approval through the governor’s office to have representatives attend such meetings and the request was not submitted in time. However, Gray noted his district is down by 40 state troopers and said the NSP is considering eliminating its midnight shifts in Reno and Carson City.
In an admonishment to remaining crowd members two hours into the meeting, Page said the onus to impact any change remains on the citizens to contact their legislators, Assemblymembers Jim Wheeler and Robin Titus or Sen. James Settelmeyer, to seek funding or road maintenance solutions.
“The only way is if we all come together as citizens, talk to the legislators, talk to the governor’s office, voice our concerns with potential solutions,” he said.
“But many times it’s you people who have a better solution than we have because we don’t get to see the problem every day living it. You do. The reality of it is if the people that left already and if you go home today and a week from now you’re letting up, nothing’s going to change.”

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