I-80: Everyone's Least Favorite Drive For A Few More Months

RENO, NV - It's a drive many dread every day.

The stretch of Interstate 80 through Reno from Keystone Avenue to East Fourth Street can also make for a dangerous trip. Several accidents have snarled traffic there in recent weeks.

It is a demanding stretch of roadway. One hundred ten thousand vehicles traverse it every single day.

Squeeze all that traffic into 2 narrow lanes each way and you get congestion. Factor in distractions and you get accidents. And accidents on these narrow crowded lanes, mean backups, delays and more accidents.

The construction creates its own challenges. Everyone agrees one problem are the short merges. If you've been driving Reno freeways for any length of time you're used to short merges, but nothing like this.

That's the reason behind the ramp meters, a new feature to northern Nevada roadways. Imagine those merges without them.

In any case, get used to them. The ramp meters are here to stay. NDOT says they will operate at least during peak travel times.

There are other challenges. Those short, quick off ramp lanes, especially from eastbound lanes to US395 South.

It was congested before. Now it's worse and during rush hour the back up can extend far back into the east bound lanes. Even with reduced speed the margin for error is small.

"Do the math," says NHP Trooper Eric Gallagher. "If you're traveling 50 mph, the average reaction time is a second and a half. So you've traveled 200 feet before you even hit the brake."

The good news is the full roadway, three lanes in either direction should be restored by August.

Could it have been done earlier? Yes, but with consequences.

If they were laying asphalt, they'd have been finished long ago, but they'd also be back in 10 years. The new concrete is replacing a 40 year old surface and should last as long.

If they'd decided to close more ramps, it would be simpler and safer, but not for businesses relying on access from the Virginia or East 4th Street ramps.

But with all the problems posed by the project with lane restrictions and distractions, Gallagher says a safe trip still comes down to paying attention behind the wheel.

"If you look out there," he says, "traffic is flowing smoothly. So it can be done."

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