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Growing Pains: South Reno residents irate over noise, traffic and accidents

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on

Increasingly dense developments in the south Reno area have created or exacerbated a number of problems: noise, traffic, crime and accidents. In addition to collisions with wild horses, a number of accidents and human deaths have been regularly reported in the news media.

More than two dozen vehicles have recently hit feral-estray horses. Most of the horses died in the collisions or were euthanized.

A Washoe County Sheriff’s Office deputy killed a motorcyclist on Geiger Grade, south of the roundabout, in 2020. The deputy did not have his emergency lights or siren on when responding to a call of a drunk driver. 

He was found guilty of manslaughter, paid an $1,100 fine and went back to work. The sheriff’s office settled with the victim’s family for about a half million dollars.

A motorcyclist died on Veterans Parkway near Long Meadow Drive in 2020. Other Veterans Parkway intersections have had newsworthy accidents, including one involving a crane.

Residents say the situation is worse than what has been reported. 

“This is like a raceway, and it’s just bad,” a nearby resident said last week of Veterans Parkway. 

Bob Lucey, Washoe County Commissioner.
Bob Lucey, Washoe County Commissioner.

The area “has been an extremely complex problem on multiple fronts,” said Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey. He did not elaborate or respond to follow-up emails.

Reno City Council member Naomi Duerr said she is aware of concerns in the area. 

“Several years ago, I worked with RTC to do a south Reno road study. We had residents identify some difficult traffic areas whether stop signs, or speed limits, or pedestrian crossing areas, or whatever was on their mind,” she said. “And RTC published this report during COVID, and the report included about 65 different road improvements that are needed in south Reno. So they are taking them one by one.”

Duerr said to expect to see improvements to intersections at Damonte Ranch Parkway, Steamboat Parkway and Veterans Parkway.  

Washoe County spokesperson Bethany Drysdale said, “the City has completed speed studies along Veterans Parkway to determine if there is a warrant to lower the speed limit, and both Reno PD and the Sheriff’s Office have been pretty diligent in enforcing speeds.”

Residents can’t sleep

Residents said the situation is untenable, and it’s causing some to move. They said law enforcement is not patrolling enough, and speed bumps should be put in near the roundabout so vehicles have to slow down.

The volume of traffic, and the roundabout directing traffic onto major roads – further east on Veterans Parkway or further south on Geiger Grade – creates a perfect storm not only for accidents, but also for excessive noise.

Burnout activity near Veterans Parkway was not hard to find.
Burnout activity near Veterans Parkway was not hard to find.

The roundabout at Veterans Parkway and Geiger Grade generates traffic such that residents of the Esprit Townhome Apartments complex said they can’t sleep at night. Cars coming out of the roundabout accelerate down both roads. With no sound barrier, the Esprit residents said they are getting pummeled with traffic noise. 

One is even measuring it with a decibel meter. It’s particularly notable at night on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the resident said. 

“Because of its location as a traffic circle, and this gas station, and Geiger Grade road and Veterans Parkway, there’s a large amount of traffic that is just very, very noisy,” said Mike (not his real name), a nearby resident who would only comment on the condition of anonymity. “It’s not just noisy, but very disrespectful and selfish to the neighborhood. 

“This is an expensive area to live. I don’t really think we should be subject to noise, day and night. And what’s worse than that is there’s a lot of reckless driving. You can hear them doing donuts, burnouts [and] street racing,” he added. 

North of the Esprit complex, and across from Veterans Parkway, is a Maverik gas station and convenience store. Mike said it’s also a nighttime gathering spot for bikers and those who want to drag race or do burnouts. 

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A representative for Maverik disputed this and said such activity is not condoned on their properties.

“Maverik’s policy does not permit large gatherings on its property without prior approval for liability reasons,” Michelle Monson, Maverik’s spokesperson, said. “We have not received any incident reports at this store regarding illegal activity nor investigative requests from the Reno Police Department, who Maverik has a relationship with and regularly assists with monitoring inquiries. 

“Also, after a review of surveillance at the store, there does not appear to be any suspicious activity happening at this site and will continue to monitor it.”

Naomi Duerr, Reno Council member.
Naomi Duerr, Reno Council member.

Speeding in and out of the roundabout is common, however, and traffic during peak commute times gets backed up on Veteran’s Parkway and Geiger Grade. An Esprit resident confirmed the noise problems and said she was personally struck by a car in the Veterans Parkway roundabout while walking through the crosswalk with her dog.

“I usually walk my dog on the right, but because of my left knee, I had him on the left,” she said. “If she would have hit him, he would have died.”

Duerr said she is also concerned by the roundabout. 

“I find it, myself, very challenging to navigate. I’m sure most people do,” she said. “I think one of the reasons is that most people go into that roundabout at a higher speed than they do at the Keitzke and Neil roundabout.

She said she requested it be improved, but an NDOT report was just completed this year on the area. The Veterans Parkway roundabout is not slated to be addressed until 2026 at the earliest.

“I’ve been down there several times just last week, analyzing how the traffic’s moving on the roundabout,” Duerr told This Is Reno. “And what I noticed, particularly in the evening, is that it is very difficult to see any paint markings at all that would help with guiding traffic on the roundabout. 

“I’m going to ask them to accelerate the repainting of the roundabout prior to any kind of reconstruction.”

The city of Reno’s ward map shows its properties are interspersed with Washoe County and state land. Source: City of Reno.
The city of Reno’s ward map shows its properties are interspersed with Washoe County and state land. Source: City of Reno.

Jurisdictional quagmire

Multiple government agencies have various roles over the general south Reno area. Those include NDOT, Nevada Highway Patrol, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, Washoe County, the city of Reno and the Reno Police Department.

Reno and Washoe County oversee their respective jurisdictions. A map of the area shows county property surrounded by city boundaries. 

These kinds of boundaries lead to complicated border disputes. The longstanding problem of mutual aid for public safety services in the region is one example.

Medical calls for service have no mutual aid requirement, according to Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District Chief Charles Moore. Medical calls, he told the Reno Gazette Journal, are tied to property boundaries.

“‘It’s a complicated boundary between all of our jurisdictions,’” the RGJ reported after a child was bleeding out while trapped under a car for a half hour because Reno Fire responded to South Meadows Parkway instead of Truckee Meadows Fire. “Sometimes Truckee Meadows is closer to a Reno call, and sometimes, Reno is closer to a Truckee Meadows call.”

He said the slower response to medical calls because of jurisdictional boundaries happens on thousands of calls. The lack of a mutual aid agreement for medical calls is one reason; the other is dispatch technology.

Mike said when he called to complain to police, Reno Police suggested he file a complaint. He said he’s not entirely clear what laws are being broken, aside from a misdemeanor of breach of peace.

“They made it sound like they were coming out, and they didn’t come out for over an hour,” he said after he complained about 60 to 80 motorcycles congregating in the area. 

The Reno Police Department’s Traffic Safety Sergeant, Greg Bonnette, did not respond to an email requesting information for this story.

Intersection plans uncertain

Nevada Department of Transportation officials published in April a plan that identified the area is a concern. That concern extends through Mt. Rose Highway. NDOT published its Mt. Rose Corridor Plan earlier this year.

It found that the past five years of population growth in the region has increased congestion along the Mt. Rose corridor. That’s leading to increasing numbers of crashes along Mt. Rose, wildlife deaths – deer in particular – and human deaths. 

NDOT graphic from the 2022 Mt. Rose Corridor Plan.
NDOT graphic from the 2022 Mt. Rose Corridor Plan.

The plan noted that, “while the Mount Rose Highway corridor does not exceed state averages for most categories of crashes, it is concerning that the corridor exceeds the statewide averages for fatalities.” 

The area at Virginia Street to the Veterans Parkway roundabout is the hottest spot on NDOT’s “heat map.” 

“Potential safety concerns along here include minimal outside shoulders, speeds, and animal crossings,” the report noted. “Finally, while not exceeding statewide averages, the intersection of Mount Rose Highway and South Virginia Street should be evaluated for opportunities to reduce accidents. Approximately two-thirds of the crashes near the intersection are rear-end accidents.

“Congestion associated with the traffic signal,” was one of the problems identified. “Crashes along the study corridor are occurring most frequently between and at the intersections of South Virginia Street and Veterans Parkway.”

The report was more specific about the Veterans-Geiger intersection:

“A critical area facing current and future congestion is the segment between S. Virginia Street and the Veterans Parkway roundabout. This segment serves as a primary connection to a significant residential area, as well as to SR 341, which provides access to Virginia City.”

The roundabout was built in 2011 and is scheduled to be reconfigured between 2026 and 2030 “depending on support, funding, and feasibility,” said Lauren Ball with the Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission.

Nevada Department of Transportation data shows that 15,500 vehicles travel on Veterans Parkway approaching the roundabout every day, while 13,600 vehicles daily travel Geiger Grade east of the roundabout.

A “potential failure at Virginia/Old 395 and Geiger Grade roundabout in 2040” was noted in the NDOT plan, and converting the roundabout to a signaled intersection was also noted. 

“The master plan provides a high-level vision for potential options to improve traffic safety and mobility for all transportation types,” said Meg Ragonese with NDOT. “Potential future improvements will be prioritized and coordinated between Washoe County, City of Reno, Nevada Highway Patrol, RTC Washoe and others.”

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Police presence is sporadic

Police have had targeted campaigns against illegal drag racing and sideshows in south Reno. In late August, 42 citations were issued over a seven-hour period. Two arrests were made. 

Drysdale, with Washoe County, said the simple solution for now is for people to simply follow the law.

“Human behavior is important, and roadway laws are in place for safety reasons,” she said. “The most obvious and perhaps most simple ‘fix’ would be for residents to follow laws as they already exist.”

The resident at the Esprit townhomes said that, after inquiries began to be made for this story, he started noticing increasing police and sheriff patrol activity. 

He said it may be part of the illegal street-racing crackdown.

“They might have gotten info from social media on where they were gathering up. Maybe all the info I provided them helped figure out an area to target,” he said. “Either way I feel I accomplished something. It is just a matter of time before the next person … gets hurt or dies.

The situation, he added, “has soured my view of Reno.” 

He said he’s thinking of moving. 

“The noise is a bigger issue than safety,” he said. 

Vehicles wait on Geiger Grade to enter the roundabout at Veterans Parkway. Image: Bob Conrad / THIS IS RENO, Sept. 7, 2022.
Vehicles wait on Geiger Grade to enter the roundabout at Veterans Parkway. Image: Bob Conrad / THIS IS RENO, Sept. 7, 2022.

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