Residents express concerns over dangerous intersection
October 22, 2018
County residents expressed their frustration to county commissioners last week with the Nevada Department of Transportation's slowness in dealing with an unsafe intersection at U.S. Highway 50 and Sheckler Cut Off, a site of numerous auto accidents and injuries as well as two deaths during the past decade.
County resident Jarrod Mesloh asked commissioners at their regularly scheduled meeting if they could pressure the Nevada Department of Transportation to make the intersection seven miles west of Fallon safer for motorists turning onto the highway from either Sheckler Cut Off or Roberson Lane. He said the configuration forces vehicles to merge into the passing lanes.
Mesloh said vehicles are whizzing through the intersection, some as fast as 65 miles per hour, which makes it dangerous for motorists who are trying to access the highway.
"The speed limit is too high," he said.
Other speakers concurred, and one speaker said the intersection is unsafe when people pulling large trailers try to make a westbound turn on the highway.
Mesloh also said the Nevada Highway Patrol appears to have increased its patrols at the intersection.
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"It's becoming a revenue maker," he said. "I haven't seen the sheriff, just the highway patrol out there."
Fallon-Fernley Sgt. Brian Cavanaugh discounted the "revenue maker" assertion, but said troopers are patrolling the intersection. He said Monday motorists are using the westbound center lane to merge, which becomes a hazardous moving violation.
"Technically, they're heading the wrong way," he said.
Cavanaugh said troopers will sit at the intersection to ensure motorists are turning onto the highway in a safe manner. He said motorists are breaking the law in front of the troopers as are drivers of large trucks when they merge into the center lane.
According to Mesloh, the NHP issued him a citation, and he vows to fight it.
The intersection is one of the most dangerous intersections in Churchill County. During the past decade, according to NDOT, the intersection has been the site of 38 crashes that caused two fatalities and 15 injuries.
In 2007 and 2010, two drivers were killed, respectively, at the intersection. After some outcry in 2010 when a 17-year-old Round Mountain teenager was killed in April, NDOT placed rumble strips on Sheckler and installed a larger stop sign with a flashing amber light.
Mesloh offered additional suggestions for NDOT to improve the intersection's safety. He said the speed limit could be reduced to 55 mph near the New Millennium Building Systems plant or it could drop to 45 mph through the intersection and then resume to a higher speed.
"At least that would alleviate some of those T-bones which are tremendous out there," he said.
Another idea Mesloh floated is based on the intersection of Arrowhead Drive and U.S. Highway 50 east of Carson City. He said warning lights advise motorists of impending red traffic lights.
Mesloh said NDOT took care of the Fernley intersections at Highway 50 from Farm District Road to the rodeo grounds. He said the highway has dedicated turn and merge lanes at every intersection.
"Why didn't Fallon get these major safety concerns?" he asked.
Mesloh, though, said a stop light at the Sheckler Cut Off intersection would be the best method to handle merging and yielding traffic. He considers a roundabout a bad idea, but if that's what the state wants, then he says "he's all for it."
Despite the number of crashes and injuries, Mesloh doesn't see an urgency from government agencies to improve the intersection's safety.
"How many crash and fatalities will it take to get the commission and NDOT to do something."
Since Highway 50 and Sheckler are state highways, NDOT is responsible for their upkeep. Mesloh also mentioned the unsafe intersection at Sheckler and Highway 95 near the fairgrounds, but because of the 35-mile-per-hour speed limit, he said crashes aren't as serious. Nevertheless, he asked commissioners if residents need to talk to the NDOT director of sign petitions to improve the intersections.
Both commissioners Carl Erquiaga and Bus Scharmann said they agree with Mesloh, and the Sheckler-Highway 50 intersection has been their No. 1 concern with NDOT for years, while the intersection on Highway 95 is their No. 2 priority.
Scharmann said the county can provide a funding match but a roundabout would take additional money and would probably be out of the question.
Lee Bonner, a planner with the agency who listened to Mesloh's testimony, said installing a traffic light at Sheckler and Highway 50 could take upward to two years and cost $1.5 million. A roundabout would cost between $3-5 million and take three to four years to complete after the state purchased right of way lands. Bonner said merge lanes would also involve the purchase of right-away land.
Scharmann said another meeting between the county and NDOT is scheduled within the next two months. The commission also gave Bonner's email (email@example.com for them to express their concerns.
For a related article, go to http://www.nevadaappeal.com/news/lahontan-valley/sheckler-hwy-50-remains-top-concern-for-county-ndot.
In other agenda items …
Recognized Stuart Richardson for 18 years of service on the Planning Commission.
Listened to updates from the Bureau of Land Management's Stillwater Field Office.
Appointed Charlie Arciniega and William Shane Yates to the Planning Commission and Stuart Richardson as the county's hearing officer.
Received a semi-annual report from the Coalition of Senior Citizens.
Approved a contract to receive a Nevada Department of Environmental Protection State Revolving Fund Principal Forgiveness Loan for consolidation of the golf course's septic system to the county's municipal wastewater system for $330,075.
Approved a job description and pay range for a public information officer.
Changed date of Dec. 19 meeting to Dec. 17.
Adopt Resolution 190-2018, a resolution declaring the intent of Churchill County to identify and acquire real property for the development of low-to-moderate income housing and to partner with Community Housing Land Trust, LLC, a subsidiary of the Community Foundation of Western Nevada in the development of those properties.
Recommend the appointment of Churchill County Manager Jim Barbee to the State Land Use Planning Advisory Council (SLUPAC), effective Jan. 1, 2019, and designate Michael Johnson as the alternate.
Approved Memorandum of Understanding between Churchill County and the Churchill County Public Administrator including a stipend of $17,500 annually.
Refused to act on a Renewable Energy Tax Abatement Application filed by Soda Lake Geothermal owned by AMOR IX, LLC.