Summit locals speak out about Old 40 speeding
Standing out in front of the Soda Springs General Store on a snowy day, Cameron McDonald watches vehicles drive by on Old Highway 40, and he’s clearly not happy.
“All you have to do is stand here and watch,” he says. “You can tell these people are not driving the speed limit.”
It’s difficult to tell exactly what speed people are driving, but most are driving faster than the posted 25 mph limit.
“If we ripped through their neighborhoods at those speeds, it would be a problem,” says the 30-year-old Soda Springs resident. “I don’t want it to be one of those things where someone has to get killed for it to stop.”
Among Donner Summit locals, McDonald isn’t alone in his complaints about speeding.
It has gotten to the point, McDonald said, where he and other residents stand on the side of the road and tell people to slow down, or they hold up signs that read “Keep Kids Alive, Drive 25.” McDonald and other Soda Springs residents allege that most speeders drive approximately 35 to 45 mph on Old 40, but some people drive as fast as 50 mph, twice the speed limit.
Justin Laberge, also a Soda Springs resident, said he has even stood on the side of the road, holding a hairdryer and pointing it at speeding cars, so drivers will think he’s holding a radar gun and slow down.
“It’s been an ongoing problem for a really, really, really long time,” said Laberge, who works at the general store. “I just want people to have a little more respect. We just want people to respect our neighborhood – it’s getting heinous.”
Old Highway 40 is the main road through the Soda Springs area and the artery to Donner Summit ski resorts. The highway is in the jurisdiction of the Truckee area CHP, which monitors all of the highways and unincorporated areas from Kingvale to state line and from the Plumas County line to the El Dorado County line.
“I know they (the CHP) are busy, but I would really like the CHP to pay more attention,” said McDonald, who added that he recently registered a verbal complaint with highway patrol.
The CHP had no working traffic complaints for Old Highway 40, CHP Officer Kirk Bromell said prior to McDonald making his complaint.
Part of the problem with patrolling Old Highway 40 is the Truckee area CHP is currently understaffed and “spread very thin,” Bromell said, adding that it’s a statewide problem for highway patrol areas because of budget constraints.
“Our main focus is the high-traffic areas,” the officer said. “We ask ourselves, ‘Where is the most traffic?’ That’s where we focus out patrol. When we only have so many people to work, we get spread pretty thin.”
Sugar Bowl, a Donner Summit ski resort, has a contract with the CHP, in which the resort pays an officer to mitigate traffic problems on busy days.
Soda Springs resident Renee Daley said the one officer who usually patrols Old 40 does a good job, but it’s not enough to stop people from speeding.
“Every local hates it (the speeding) … there’s kids on the road, there’s dogs,” she said. “You’d think it’s the snowboard punks, but it’s the older people in their SUVs – their big expensive cars – rushing off to get to the ski resorts.”
With the CHP’s limited resources, some residents have tried to come up with solutions to get people to slow down on Old 40. McDonald has looked into getting a radar speed trailer from the CHP that shows how fast drivers are going, but the signs cannot be used in the snow because roads are too narrow. Also, the Truckee area CHP only has one radar trailer.
Laberge has another more grass roots solution.
“We want to get some sort of funding for a sign when people get off [Interstate 80],” he said. “It can say ‘This is the speed limit’ and why people should go that speed, and ‘Slow down!'”
How to register a traffic complaint
Truckee CHP officer Kirk Bromell said he encourages people to call in to make traffic complaints.
This is how it’s done:
— Take down all information possible, like times, dates, location and suspect vehicle information;
— Contact the CHP’s 24-hour hotline at 582-7500 (you do not have to leave your name);
— The complaint will be handed to the officers who handle the beat for the area of the complaint.
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