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Dear friends and fellow safety advocates,
On one of our morning bike rides last week, my husband and I were split up for a few minutes when he had the scary opportunity of watching a speeding truck fly off the road and tumble down a cliff right in front of him. Five seconds more and I would have been joining my dear friend Minta Albietz and dear sweet Elizabeth Scott and the others in the State Route 159 widow’s group.
Julie Breslin witnessed it and took photos, saying, “this is too close for comfort.” She is one who continues tirelessly writing letters asking for a safer roadway through Red Rock. While crashes and run-offs are becoming more commonplace in the canyon, it is still scary whenever one happens this close. I’ve had a few close calls myself, and not just while cycling. Our whole family and neighborhood and any of you who regularly travels 159 knows how dangerous it is getting for automobiles, too. I recently witnessed an overturned cement truck near the Red Rock scenic overlook. It is evident, the new users of 159 don’t understand that this winding, two-lane scenic byway was not designed as a high speed city bypass nor to handle increased traffic as such.
NDOT’s recent approach to the safety issues on the adjoining highway, SR 160, worked to reduce its crash rate significantly. SR 160 was given extra law enforcement, a newly reduced 45 mph speed limit, and a big sign warning people to drive carefully until safety work can be done this summer. NHP statistics showed instant results. With a resource for extra law enforcement on 159, we could be seeing similar results.
At the crash scene last week, as the ambulance was leaving, I asked the officers what they thought could be done to make 159 safer. They echoed the single most popular response from all the public meetings and safety charettes, to lower the speed limit and increase law enforcement presence. They suggested getting the county commissioner to approve overtime for them to patrol the road, saying they are only called out here for accidents. I would love to see the county commission do something, but just in case they don’t, this is the best lead I’ve found so far:
The Federal Highway Administration has a special safety fund that in very specific instances may be spent on state highways. The conditions are that the state road must have a need for safety already determined and plans for improvements already in place, but not yet constructed. SR 159 exactly! The funds pay for a temporary increase in enforcement to maintain safety until safety measures are completed. NDOT has already determined the need for safety on this road and committed to certain improvements, including a new speed study to determine an appropriate speed for the canyon. In the meantime, we must send the message to all the new user groups in Red Rock, that this is not just a speedway free-for-all, it is a scenic route that requires awareness and respect.
We appreciate all of your patience and willingness to help when needed. It is frustrating how long things take, but your voice is making a difference and can still. In addition to the speeding/enforcement issue, we have been working on the source of the problem, SR 160, and some interesting news is soon to be forthcoming on that. We are also working an angle on the National Conservation Area, with which we may need your help in the near future. But the most important thing we can do right now is work together to get the speeding and crashes on 159 under control.
Please copy and paste the following addresses to an email and write today if you would like to see increased enforcement and a lower speed limit on 159, or at least more enforcement, as rarely does anyone drive just 60 anymore.
[email protected] (Susan Klekar, Federal Highway Administration, Nevada Division Administrator), [email protected] (NDOT Director, Jeff Fontaine), [email protected] (Governor Kenny Guinn), [email protected] [email protected] (United States Senator Harry Reid and Deputy Shannon Raborn), [email protected] (Senator Dina Titus), [email protected] (Senator John Jay Lee), [email protected] (County Commissioner Chip Maxfield), [email protected] (County Commissioner Lynette Boggs, McDonald), [email protected] (Heather Fisher, Nevada Scenic Byways Coalition, a copy for the record)
The letters don’t need to be long, but we do need a lot of them sent as soon as possible. Please ask your friends to write as well.
Nevada Scenic Byways Coalition