New US 395 bridge includes unintended hazard

Published: Oct. 26, 2020 at 5:07 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Earlier this month work was completed on a new bridge over US 395 North at Parr Boulevard and Dandini, but now there is an unintended and unexpected safety hazard.

Demolition of the old structure and construction of the new complicated commutes for many, so when the new bridge went up in what felt like record time it was welcomed.

A seismic-safe replacement for a half century old span, it was an indication of better things to come, clearing the way for a planned widening of the highway.

But a problem has emerged, not with the bridge itself or the roadway beneath, but with the north bound off ramp, specifically with traffic attempting to turn left to Parr Boulevard at the top.

The combination of a new concrete wall leading to a corner connecting with the bridge wall creates the kind of blind intersection where you kind of have to stick your nose out to see if it’s safe.

Some motorists are finding it more than a little dicey. A motorist turning left has a difficult time seeing oncoming traffic crossing the bridge. We were driving through it in an SUV. The visibility would be even worse in a lower profile vehicle.Already we’ve heard of some close calls, some involving motorcycles.

The bridge itself doesn’t appear to be the problem. It’s an improvement. It’s wider, for the first time has sidewalks. On the other hand the walls are four inches higher than the old bridge. That may contribute to the visibility issue, but that’s a minimum height allowed under current specs.

The problem seems to be the addition of that concrete wall--it’s called a barrier rail--along the off ramp.

“The barrier rail is something we’re going to evaluate to see if we can shorten or slightly move that to enhance driver comfort," says NDOT spokeswoman Meg Ragonese.

And, if they agree there’s a problem, there are other solutions including a warning light reminding those crossing the bridge of a 20 mile an hour speed limit and restriping some of the lanes on the ramp.

In 2023 the off ramp, itself will be widened and relocated which should fix the problem. In the meantime making this left turn, should require an extra measure of caution.

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