Mt. Rose Corridor – Traffic Studies Have Begun

You may have noticed some activity on Mt. Rose Corridor including traffic counters strung across the highway and increased surveillance by Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP). As of today there are surface mounted traffic counting appliances (hoses) installed at:

  1. Mt. Rose Hwy – between Wedge Parkway and Edmonton (east and west)
  2. Mt. Rose Hwy – between Fawn Lane and Callahan (east and west)
  3. Mt. Rose Hwy — between Callahan and Coyote Lane (east and west)
  4. Callahan Road north of Mt. Rose Hwy – (south bound only)
  5. Callahan Road south of Mt. Rose Hwy — (northbound only

I talked to Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) today to get some specifics on the studies commencing in the Mt. Rose Corridor. In addition to traffic counters, NDOT will install more hoses capable of measuring speed (two-looped hoses). These hoses will collect data from the roads managed by NDOT, including Mt. Rose Highway, S. Virginia and Geiger Grade Roads.   Washoe County is planning to collect traffic and speed counts from the side roads including (but not limited to) Thomas Creek, Timberline, Edmonton, and Wedge Parkway.

There are three studies in progress:   the speed study, signal warrant study (both focused on individual intersections and specific road segments) and the update of the Mt. Rose Corridor Safety Study (which will include input from NHP).   These studies will incorporate the entire Mt. Rose Corridor from the Galena County Park down to intersection with Geiger Grade Road (approximately 5 miles).

NDOT is updating the Mt. Rose Corridor Road Safety Audit (RSA).  The last RSA was completed in 2012.   The RSA is large overview report , including consultant reports, matrix of studies, problems, issues, and a menu of options for traffic safety remediation. NDOT has begun their safety information update including spot analysis on all intersections, (including non-signalized ones).   There is a Workshop component to the RSA which will include: NHP, County, Fire Dept. Maintenance, community members, ambulance services.   The Workshop has not yet been scheduled.

NHP has begun an increased traffic control campaign.   Since May 18, numerous tickets have been levied for speeding, DUI, cell phone use, no seat belts, distracted driving, etc.   Unfortunately, NHP has limited funding and personnel to maintain this campaign but plans to have increased surveillance along the Mt. Rose Corridor throughout the summer months.

 

RGJ County Commissioner Forum

RGJ_Candidate-Forum_052918

Incumbents AWOL

Commission candidates competing in the primary were invited to the RGJ forum last night.  None of the incumbents showed up.  Are commissioners Lucey, Jung, and Herman afraid to face the  public or just cocky?  Kel Buchanon, Brett Delaire, Austin Grush, Lindsy Judd, and Greg Smith fielded questions posed by Anjeanette Daemon of the Reno Gazette Journal.  The questions were tough and the answers illuminating.  Open the notes for the salient points.

Seismic Shift (5/6/18)

The unspeakable was spoken.  Commissioner Jung has now asked the question “Can’t we pass some ordinance to stop development in Lemmon Valley?”  There are new developments approved that aren’t started yet.  To deny the approval of new developments will do nothing to stop the developments already “in the pipeline”.  Commissioner Jung echos the sentiment of Commissioner Herman and Planning Commissioner Chesney on this topic.  Rapid (indiscriminate) development has been an article of faith for the County Commission.  Perhaps, they will see the light.  Some growth is fine, but none that increases the volume of Swan Lake in Lemmon Valley.

A second seismic tremor occurred when Commissioner Lucey suggested that the county should work with regional agencies to do better planning following a fatal crash on Mt. Rose Highway.  This was after the commission attacked the planners at the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency and arranged for the agency’s authority to be curtailed.  Lucey admitted that there was some onus on the county for approving developments on both sides of Mt. Rose Highway with no plan to handle the increased highway traffic.
Hopefully, both of these realizations will lead to more responsible planning and development moving forward.  We can’t keep going on like this.

Cumulative Impacts of Development – Why Are They Ignored by our County Commissioners?

The word “cumulative” means Increasing or enlarging by successive accumulation or increasing by addition.   In the extractive industries (oil, gas and mining) the term “cumulative impacts” is used to define the parameters by which an industry is allowed to operate, then mitigate after closure. In industry as well as in an undisturbed or residential environment, cumulative environmental impacts can be defined as effects on the environment which are caused by the combined results of past, current and future activities. From Wikipedia: “Cumulative impact is the impact on the environment which results from the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency (Federal or non-Federal) or person undertakes such other actions. Cumulative impacts can result from individually minor but collectively significant actions taking place over a period of time.”

Direct and indirect human activities, with time, combine to collectively impact the environment. These effects may differ from the original, individual activities. For example, ecosystems can be damaged by the combined effects of human activities, such as air, land, and/or water pollution, improper handling of industrial waste, and other human development activities.   As a citizen of Washoe County, what impacts to your surrounding environment have you noticed in the last 5 to 10 years?   Is it increasing traffic?   Congestion?   More housing developments? Water supply? Concerns about increasing population and the County’s ability to provide adequate infrastructure?     Taxing existing residents to pay for infrastructure that should have been implemented at the time of housing development.

Scientific and technical experts in cumulative impacts analysis explore and quantify the manifold impacts of urbanization on ecosystems and the services they provide. These experts have investigated the effects of urbanization on climate, soils, farming, ecosystems, stormwater and water supply.   Ongoing research into the cumulative impacts of urbanization on the environment and the natural resources needed to sustain them, now inform planning decisions made in urbanizing areas.   Washoe County is one of the most rapidly urbanizing areas in the country. Do our County Planners, Planning Commissioners and Washoe County Commissioners adequately consider the cumulative impacts of urbanization on our existing residents?   When you look at the infrastructure around you, do you feel secure that our County government is considering additional population and their demands when approving one development after another? Do the urban planners who work for Washoe County as well as the developers deal with cumulative impacts?   Evidence of consideration of cumulative impacts in developers Tentative Plans is lacking.

County and State governments must be responsible for gauging the long-term accumulation of the impacts of urbanization on the environment.   If they are not, then who is?

Think about growth issues such as roads, traffic, water supply, schools, stormwater management (or mismanagement given the 2017 flooding), sewage treatment, fire prevention, and police services.   With Washoe population currently at over 460,000 and expected to increase by another 180,000 in the next 10 years, it is imperative that robust consideration of cumulative impacts to these issues, along with adequate remedial measures, be implemented immediately if we are to protect our lifestyle and our natural resources.

Summary – Mt. Rose Corridor Traffic Safety Meeting May 16

Meeting Summary – Mt Rose Highway Corridor Safety Issues

May 16, 2018                  6-8 pm                Tamarack Junction Meeting Room

The meeting was facilitated by Mike Lawson – Planning Commissioner representing District 2. Mike has 34 years NDOT experience conducting traffic safety studies and is therefore well-versed, as a Washoe County representative to assist in finding solutions to increased traffic in the corridor and attendant safety concerns.   Thor Dyson, NDOT District Engineer for District 2 and Major Rob Stepien, Northern Command, Nevada Highway Patrol delivered information on the following topics:

SR 431 at Callahan Intersection

  • A signal warrant study and speed study are currently underway from Upper Joy Lake to I-580. Currently 14,000 cars/day use Mt. Rose Hwy. Signal warrant study will be done in 1-3 months and the speed study in 3-5 months.
  • Six total accidents at the intersection in the last 10 years (including the most recent fatal accident) and only 7 in the last 10 years (3 of those were rear-end on Callahan and not correctable with a signal). 1.4 crashes per 1 million miles traveled on Mt. Rose Hwy (average is 2.6). Additional data and information from Institute of Traffic Engineers (ITE) are being utilized.
  • Data collected can be used to investigate a potential roundabout if NDOT also conducts an Intersection Control Evaluation (ICE) – this is being recommended by NDOT Safety but requires coordination with NDOT Traffic Operations.
  • NDOT proposes to conduct a Road Safety Audit (RSA). Results from the RSA along with the speed study will be used to evaluate each traffic calming option for each intersection along Mt. Rose Hwy.   Signals and roundabout are not the only solutions to access control, improve the safety or Operation of the intersection (MUTCD) – rear end vs angle/delay.
  • 3500 tickets have been issued in the last 2 years.

Road Safety Audit (RSA)

  • Issues at Edmonton, Joy Lake Road, Thomas Creek, Fawn Lane and Timberline.
  • Road safety audits consider speeds, sight distance, restriction of turning movements, worm islands, offset intersections, pedestrian accommodations, bike paths, etc.
  • An RSA for the Mt. Rose Corridor is proposed to be a topic for a future planning commission meeting.   The last RSA was conducted in 2015, but an additional 5,000 car trips/day have been added since then.
  • NDOT wants to include two citizen representatives in the RSA process.

Ascente Development Issues and County Commissioners Role in Current Problems

  • The Ascente Tentative Map was approved with flawed studies, including their traffic study, which were not independently reviewed for legitimacy.
  • Potential conflict of interest by some county commissioners left the Mt. Rose/Callahan/Fawn intersections with NO planned or financed upgrades to accommodate all CUMULATIVE increases in traffic in the corridor.
  • Planning commission – lack of understanding regarding staff “recommendations”.
  • The current traffic plan for Mt Rose Corridor may be in violation of Forest area plan but it is inadequate in any case.
  • NDOT District 2 traffic engineering sent a memo to County Planners strongly suggesting that Ascente be accessed via a new road intersecting at Thomas Creek. This was ignored by the County Planners and Commissioners.
  • It is imperative that Washoe developers be made to pay for road improvements rather than relying on increasing tax revenue from existing and future residents to pay for much-needed upgrades to roads and infrastructure.

Steve Wolgast – Candidate for County Commissioner, District-2, Bob Lucey’s seat

  • Residents, homeowners, and taxpayers are not represented.
  • Fight bad growth all over the county; issues of traffic, flooding, services.
  • Seek long term planning: traffic, water, flooding, wildfire, emergency services.
  • Promote construction of less expensive housing.
  • The problems presented by the Ascenté development are all duplicated throughout the county.

Washoe Residents for Appropriate Development (WRAP)

  • WRAP is a PAC. It can collect and spend money for political purposes.
  • Community organizer in opposition to Ascente as proposed.
  • Advocate for appropriate planning including ALL Washoe County infrastructure and services, roads schools, water supply, stormwater management, fire safety and sewage treatment in support of EXISTING residents.
  • WRAP is a NON-partisan organization committed to promoting development that is in keeping with Washoe County PLANS and regulations, and does not negatively impact EXISTING residents.
  • WRAP plans to follow up on Mt Rose Corridor safety issues and focus attention on finding solutions to the traffic safety issues on Mt. Rose Hwy.

Questions and Discussion

  • The high grade (5-6%) on Mt. Rose Hwy makes traffic signals and roundabouts tricky particularly in winter.   NDOT says that traffic signals are not necessarily the best option for the Callahan intersection.
  • Speed limits may be lowered for all stretches of the highway.
  • Speed cameras are not allowed by NV legislation.
  • NHP states that tickets and fines are the best deterrent to speeding.
  • A typical stoplight costs ~$700,000.
  • The question of who has the ultimate authority to decide on safety solution rests with Regional Traffic Commission. They have over $166 million in planned and uncompleted projects and only $3 million in available funds.
  • Local traffic consulting engineer discussed various traffic calming options including “pork chop” concrete barriers, flashing lights, signage. Results of the traffic studies will be used to select the best solution based on current best traffic management practice.
  • Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Authority (TMRPA) should promote collection of additional funding for Washoe infrastructure from developers – citizens are being ignored!

What can we do today?  

  • Let the professional NDOT and NHP engineers do their work and finish the studies.
  • Make the best traffic control decisions based on RSA, speed study, corridor analysis and signal warrant studies.
  • Continue to demand accountability from Washoe County Planners, Planning Commissioners and Washoe County Commissioners.

 

Comments and suggestions can be sent to:

Mike Lawson – District 2 County Planning Commissioner   Michael.Lawson@atkinsglobal. Com

Thor Dyson – NDOT Engineer – District 2   TDyson@dot.nv.gov

Major Robert Stepien – Northern Command, Nevada Highway Patrol  rob.stepien@dps.state.nv.us

Mount Rose Highway Hazards

A fatal collision on Saturday, May 5, revealed a broad neighborhood consensus that something needed to be done to address traffic hazards on Mount Rose Highway.  Traffic has increased with new developments along the highway while commute traffic between Incline and Reno has increased.  The commuters are driving at higher speeds leaving residents with increasingly dangerous turns into and out of the neighborhoods.

The outcry over the hazards was evident on the Nextdoor site.  Several neighborhood activists planned an open meeting to discuss the issues and what could be done.  We were lucky to get the participation of Planning Commissioner Mike Lawson, NDOT Engineer Thor Dyson, and NHP Major Rob Stepien.  These representatives gave concise, informative presentations and later fielded questions from neighbors for over an hour.  It appeared to be an encouraging display of democracy in action.

Jump to the web page with additional details and several media reports. LINK

Still Digging!

“If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

At the April 26 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, the Board heard the appeal from the Lemmon Valley Recovery Committee against the Lemmon Valley Heights development for the reasons that it would increase flood risk and general risk to public safety.  The Board voted against the appeal 3-1 (Lucey, Berkbigler, and Jung) with Herman supporting the appeal.

Commissioner Lucey argued:

The appellants don’t have standing since their property is more than 500’ from the new development location.  They are not aggrieved and this would set a bad precedent.

The appellants argued:

  • Area homes were flooded last year by Swan Lake. The new homes will contribute to flooding.
  • Last year Lemmon Valley Drive was flooded preventing emergency vehicles access.
  • Mosquitos are bred in the floodwaters and have a range of miles.
  • The schools will likely be overcrowded. The developer is making false assumptions.
  • The county plans to elevate part of Lemmon Valley Drive, but not the part that flooded.
  • The developer plans a new road that is shown going through a retention pond.
  • There are no statistics based on measured runoff to make realistic models.
  • The retention basin that is there is not percolating and is holding its water level.
  • The new retention basins could be mostly filled by a single storm. A second, moderate storm will cause flooding.
  • The new development will cause a large increase in impervious-surface area promoting flooding.
  • The sewer effluent volume is the same volume as the retention ponds, but it is not considered in the flood analysis.

Commissioner Herman spoke in support of the appellants and said that it would be irresponsible to more forward with this development plan.

The county admitted that the water treatment plant can only function with earthen berms to protect it.  They have had to build up the berms and provide storm pumps to combat the effects of erosion and seepage.

Commissioner Lucey proposed the motion to deny the appeal saying “The appellant has not standing for being outside of the 500’ and I don’t find that the appellant is aggrieved in any manner, way, shape, or form.”  This motion carried 3-1.

See the final discussion and voting in this 4-minute video clip.

See the entire meeting with this LINK.  Select agenda item 24.

Mark Lawson