North Lake Tahoe Bonanza editorial: Progress at NDOT, but it’s only a start | SierraSun.com

North Lake Tahoe Bonanza editorial: Progress at NDOT, but it’s only a start

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — We would like to both applaud and chastise the Nevada Department of Transportation this week.

First, the kudos. In the past several months, the department has OK'd a pair of important projects that will lead to increased public safety in Incline.

Last year, it allowed the release of $260,000 to upgrade the two crosswalks in town by the Christmas Tree Village and Raley's shopping centers. The work is expected to begin this year, although it may stretch to 2016.

Due to the general feeling among many at Lake Tahoe that light pollution is bad for the region, it's no secret our roadways are very poorly lit and are a safety hazard because of it.

Therefore, these upgrades should draw much greater attention to these high-traffic areas, and that means the odds of motorists seeing pedestrians from afar should greatly improve.

Secondly, as reported today, roughly $4 million is being pumped into the runaway truck ramp near the roundabout in town.

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NDOT officials say the modernized system of drag nets, coupled with a concrete base that will heat up during winters, should greatly improve safety. Although tentative, the goal is to start the upgrade next spring.

We all know how easy it can be to gain speed coming down the Mt. Rose Highway, so it will be a bit more comforting to make the commute between Incline and Reno once the ramp is upgraded.

Both of these projects will mainly be paid for with federal transportation funds, and all told, we support spending taxpayer dollars on projects that should diminish the number of people that die on Nevada roads.

Now, the criticism. It took NDOT far too many years to OK these projects.

In terms of the crosswalks, we're all familiar with the Dec. 30, 2011, tragedy when Incline residents Robert C. Mathis and Linda Mathis died when they were hit by a vehicle near the unlit crosswalk. It's not a safe area of the highway at night, and because of that (among other reasons, of course), two people are dead, and the person who hit them was imprisoned.

A year and a half before that, meanwhile, is when Frederick Matthews of San Diego died after his careening semi truck blasted through the runaway ramp and launched into the home on Woodridge Circle below. A 19-year-old was actually in the house at the time; luckily, she escaped.

These are among other vivid memories of death and danger on the Nevada highways we in Incline Village travel every day.

So, while we appreciate that some changes are in the works, we want to urge NDOT to do away with the internal bureaucracy and act faster when our safety is in danger.

Gov. Sandoval put it into perspective last month when he told the state transportation board that he was "sick to (his) stomach" that delays in constructing a traffic light at a Reno crosswalk had led to 12 deaths in 15 years.

NDOT's mission is "zero fatalities." Realistically, we know that will never happen. But how you react to them is what counts.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza editorial staff.