Churchill County motorists are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel in the form of permanent traffic signals at a dangerous intersection on the Reno Highway.
Preliminary construction began Monday to install a traffic light at U.S. Highway 50 and Sheckler Cutoff, an intersection noted for its number of accidents and fatal crashes
Every weekday through July 7, the Nevada Department of Transportation will implement single-lane closures, and traffic switches will be in place at the intersection while crews install foundations for the permanent traffic signal.
NDOT spokeswoman Meg Ragonese said the permanent signal should be installed sometime in late summer.
“Motorists are reminded to drive safely and attentively, following all traffic signage,” she said. “Drivers should be prepared to stop at the new signal and leave extra time to travel through the intersection.”
Ragonese added motorists will encounter speed-limit reductions, minor traffic delays additional periodic lane closures in the work zone.
“A temporary traffic signal was installed Feb. 3 to provide more designated turns to the highway and help reduce crashes,” she said. “Now, crews will be constructing foundations and installing conduit in preparation for future installation of a permanent traffic signal.”
NDOT officially notified Churchill County Commissioners in January 2019 the area’s most dangerous intersection in Churchill County would have traffic lights installed this year. Ragonese said the U.S. 50 and Sheckler Cutoff meets specific federal guidelines needed to consider the installation, and the manufacturing of lights would be fast-tracked.
“While traffic signals are not the most appropriate for all intersections, the U.S. 50 and Sheckler Cutoff intersection also meets specific federally-prescribed warrants, or prerequisites needed to proceed with installation of a traffic signal,” she said in 2019.“
Ragonese said many traffic signal components such as poles and mast arms are custom-manufactured to fit the specific intersection where they will be installed.
“Many of these custom-fabricated components have a production and manufacturing lead time of six months or more,” she said.
NDOT officials addressing the county commissioners two years ago said the agency had previously looked at traffic signals for the intersection, which costs less than constructing a roundabout.
The cost to build a roundabout, said NDOT, could cost between $3 million to $4 million with the county providing a share of the cost through matching funds. Obtaining right of way land would also take time.
“Based on the findings of these intersection evaluations, a traffic signal was selected as the best option,” Ragonese said. “The permanent traffic signal being installed over coming months was able to be implemented within a year compared to a projected three- to four-year timeline for design, development, right-of-way acquisition and construction of a potential traffic roundabout.”
When comparing traffic safety benefits and construction and societal costs, Ragonese said the traffic signal also has a higher benefit-cost ratio than a traffic roundabout.
Lane closures between Dayton, Stagecoach
Highway shoulder and lane closures will began on U.S. 50 between Dayton and Stagecoach as NDOT installs intersection lighting.
Periodic shoulder and lane closures will take place weekdays from 5 a.m.-2:30 p.m. through late August on small sections of U.S. 50 between Chaves Road in east Dayton and Roy’s Road in Stagecoach.
A minimum of one lane in each direction, as well as business and residential access, will remain open. Speed limits may be reduced in the work zone.