Highway 50 project aims to fix safety problems

A car travels west on Highway 50 at the turn from Highway 341, the road to Virginia City, last year.

A car travels west on Highway 50 at the turn from Highway 341, the road to Virginia City, last year.

Carson Sheriff Ken Furlong says intensive enforcement on Highway 50 between Dayton and Carson City has reduced the number of accidents and other problems during the past couple of months.

But he says intensive enforcement by Nevada Highway Patrol and deputies from Carson and Lyon County is a temporary fix.

The permanent fix, Furlong said, is in the highway repaving and safety project the Nevada Department of Transportation will put out to bid in January.

Senior NDOT Roadway Designer Steve Bird said the $7.3 million project will not only repave the stretch of highway and improve drainage, but it will create a new and much safer intersection where State Route 341 to Virginia City meets Highway 50 and a new intersection at Flint Drive, the road to the landfill.

The project extends from Alfonso at the industrial area east of State Route 341 almost to Deer Run Road in Carson City.

It also includes installing a concrete barrier from Flint Drive down the hill to Carson City to prevent head-on crashes caused by drivers crossing into the oncoming lanes.

For the volume of traffic, which isn’t nearly as large as many other highways in the state, that stretch of Highway 50 has proven to be one of Nevada’s most dangerous. According to Bird’s Traffic Management Plan, there were 111 crashes between June 2008 and June of this year — causing nine fatalities.

Furlong said he has been “real pleased with the results” of the intensive enforcement through that corridor.

“By in large, drivers are acting more appropriate,” he said.

But he said if the enforcement efforts were scaled back to normal levels, drivers would quickly return to their old habits, speeding up and being less attentive.

“We can do the education and we can do the enforcement, but in the longer run, we need to create a safer highway structurally,” Furlong said.

He said upgrading those two intersections and installing concrete barrier walls to separate traffic will accomplish that.

“I’m really happy about this,” he said of the project.

Bird said NDOT will put the project out to bid in January. Plans are to finish the work by fall of 2014.

At SR341, the changes will create what engineers call a “T” intersection. There will be an acceleration lane for cars heading toward Carson City, a left turn lane for cars heading to Virginia City and a right turn lane for cars turning onto SR341 from the east — all neatly separated by raised concrete medians. There also will be an acceleration lane for cars turning left and heading east from SR341 onto U.S. 50.

On the east side, a frontage road will stretch from Jeanette Drive to Darf Lane with access to Highway 50 at two points.

A similar “T” intersection will be created at Flint Drive, but neither will have signal lights.

Furlong said many of the changes including the concrete barrier wall were suggested by area residents in public meetings and incorporated in the design by NDOT.

Bird said the project also will include upgraded lighting on the highway.

But Furlong said one issue that won’t change when the project is finished is the problems with estray horses in the area.

“Horses are always a challenge,” he said.

But state agriculture and wildlife officials have been working to move those horses back up into the Virginia Range and away from the highway.


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