Spooner summit memorial raises NDOT concerns | NevadaAppeal.com

Spooner summit memorial raises NDOT concerns

by Geoff Dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

The Nevada Department of Transportation is trying to work out a policy to control the increasingly common practice of building memorials along Nevada’s highways.

Deputy Director Jeff Fontaine said one of the memorials that raised the issue is the cross in memory of Krystal Steadman, the 9-year-old South Lake Tahoe girl who was kidnapped, killed and dumped two miles west of Carson City near Spooner Summit.

After it was vandalized on more than one occasion, supporters built an 8-foot steel cross embedded in a concrete base near Highway 50.

“It’s clearly intended to be a permanent installation,” Fontaine said. “But anything in the right-of-way has to be permitted.”

He said the idea isn’t to stop people from honoring friends and family members killed on Nevada highways, but to get some control over the process. He told the Transportation Board that Nevada has no rules over such memorials.

“We’re not concerned about flowers and wooden crosses,” Transportation Director Tom Stephens said.

He said the specific concern is any memorial that could cause a hazard.

Fontaine said the cross on Spooner raises some of those concerns, even though it is behind a guardrail.

“We have some concerns about people pulling on and off the highway,” he said.

He said engineers are concerned someone new to the area might be distracted by the memorial and cause an accident.

Fontaine said the department will schedule a series of workshops to discuss a uniform statewide policy for memorials along Nevada’s highways.

“We want to really be as sensitive as we can to families and friends who may have lost loved ones in a highway crash,” he said.

But Fontaine said safety is a primary concern. And he said there are constitutional issues involved with some people who may object to religious symbols being erected in the state right-of-way.