Pleasant Valley charette makes a hard turn toward progress
September 25, 2004
Rick Riley of Washoe Valley has two children and a nightmare scenario on his mind.
“It’s just a matter of time before somebody comes speeding by “and T-bones a bus full of kids” and 40 or 50 of our children are killed.
The bus he’s thinking of has to get on and off the dangerous stretch of Highway 395 from Winter’s Ranch to the Mt. Rose highway at least 21 times a day.
The 8.5-mile corridor, an area where traffic has doubled in the past 20 years, is the seat of controversy. It is the area where residents, inspired by safety leader, David Jones, have put up dozens of homemade signs begging motorists to “please slow down.”
In August, Jones and a group of Pleasant Valley residents petitioned NDOT to do something to make the stretch of highway safer.
The Pleasant Valley Elementary School auditorium was full of concerned citizens and community leaders for the three-hour, “charette,” an intense effort to solve a problem within a limited time.
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From 9 a.m. until noon, moderator Sue Newberry, a traffic safety expert hired by NDOT, went over the concerns of the community and all of the possible fixes.
“Needless to say,” she warned, “there is no quick fix.”
Even the completion of I-580 in 2008 will create problems.
“Congestion actually keeps speeds down,” said Newberry. “When the freeway is finished, there will be a lot less traffic on the road,” possibly going at even higher speeds.
The first resolution everybody agreed on was that “entering the traffic flow from anywhere along the notorious corridor is difficult.”
Applause filled the auditorium, some out of relief that NDOT was finally recognizing their problems and some a bit sarcastic, for the same reason.
Newberry held the audience with the same firm hand with which she held the microphone, keeping order despite the occasional outburst by frustrated residents.
She then presented a slide show that gave the audience different possibilities for how to fix their problem and the pros and cons of each, from concrete barriers to high-profile flashing speed limit signs.
Anyone doubting the seriousness with which the residents see this issue should take note: It takes a lot to get a group of adults to voluntarily sit in a stuffy room on a Saturday morning and watch a slide presentation created by a government agency.
“One of the biggest problems on this road is idiot drivers. They drive too fast, too many talking on their telephones not paying attention,” said Charlie Collins, President of the Homeowner’s Association for Pleasant Valley. The retired former NDOT worker didn’t mince words, but seemed in good spirits. He had faith and confidence “that the community will come up with some good ideas and work this thing out.”
David Jones, the citizen-leader of the group responsible for the grass-roots effort to put up homemade signs along the corridor was glad to see his work paying off.
“This is a really great way to solve problems,” he said. “I’m certain this is going to work and it’s going to work for all of us.”
Jones carried letters from state officials and local agencies. “We’re all here on the same side,” he said. “We’re not here to alienate anyone. This is the beginning of the process, not the solution. But the solution will come in time.”
Trooper Chuck Allen was equally pleased at the progress of the meeting, and the process itself.
“There was a problem, and we’ve all gotten together to try to fix it. That’s how America works. This is democracy at its best.”
After the slide show, the audience split into groups and mingled, discussing what their best options might be.
Progress was made.
Susan Martinovich Deputy Director of NDOT was pleased.
“We accomplished getting people’s input and hearing the public’s concerns while allowing the public to hear our concerns as well.”
Contact Peter Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1215.