Intersection of danger
A big-rig truck blared its horn and swerved across the center line as a small Honda sports utility vehicle merged from Alder Creek Road onto Highway 89 north Monday afternoon.
The 18-wheeler sped on its way as the Honda’s driver braked and pulled over to avoid a collision.
Standing a few feet away was Brenda Van Arsdale, the mother of Kyle “Dutch” Van Arsdale, a 21-year-old who was killed in an accident at the same intersection in July.
“That’s exactly why this intersection needs to be changed,” Van Arsdale said after witnessing the close brush.
Van Arsdale was one of about 70 residents who attended a joint meeting last week between officials from Caltrans and the Town of Truckee to discuss possible improvements that could prevent new tragedies. Possible projects range from tree-trimming for better line-of-sight for motorists to a less-likely freeway-style interchange.
With such options as stop signs, stop lights and roundabouts on the table, Van Arsdale and others at the meeting Tuesday in Truckee Town Hall wanted to focus on reduced speed limits, better signs approaching the intersection, and improved sight lines.
“At that intersection, speed is a huge issue and sight is a huge issue,” Van Arsdale said.
But reducing the speed limit on a state highway isn’t as easy as going out and changing the signs. Instead, said Robert Peterson with Caltrans Traffic Safety, changing a highway’s speed limit requires the state legislature to approve a statute to that effect.
Currently, traffic authorities determine speed limits by the 85th percentile ” the speed that 85 percent of the public drives at or below, Peterson said.
This doesn’t dissuade Van Arsdale from seeking a change to Highway 89’s speed limit, however.
“If we have to go to the state, we will,” Van Arsdale said. “Think of the lives we would save if we could get the speed down.”
Nevada County Supervisor Ted Owens has already started the ball rolling, bringing the intersection’s danger to the attention of state Sen. Dave Cox as well as to U.S. Rep. John Doolittle.
“This may be a slim area of the vehicle code that needs a legislative address,” Owens said at last Tuesday’s meeting. “It would be a two-year project for a legislative remedy.”
Van Arsdale said she hopes to gain community support for the legislative change on speed limit policy, but also to win the support of other towns and cities with similar traffic concerns.
“This is not just happening in Truckee, it’s all over California,” Van Arsdale said. “Towns are growing into rural areas and the roads aren’t keeping up with growth.”
Van Arsdale urged those who support efforts to reduce the speed limit on Highway 89 north and other safety solutions, to contact Christina Visconti by e-mail at email@example.com.
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