Reno has a big traffic problem. Despite containing just 10% of Nevada’s population, it is the location of 20% of the state’s traffic fatalities. But could the reason be more than bad driving? To find out, we need to look at two of the most dangerous roads in Reno.
Pyramid Way and McCarren Blvd
This intersection is a case where infrastructure couldn’t keep up with the growth of the city. This is often called the busiest intersection in Sparks and it’s easy to see why. The intersection is asymmetrical. Pyramid Way has 3 lanes going in either direction, but McCarran only has two. This means the street has been stretched, making it generally confusing to tourists and locals alike.
Although the city has made some improvements in recent years, this intersection remains a hotspot for crashes, with more than 150 wrecks of varying severity each year.
The Spaghetti Bowl
The Spaghetti bowl is that unusual highway exchange in the heart of Reno where Route 80 meets Route 580. The problem with this intersection, in addition to being confusing to many drivers, is that the highway itself is cramped.
Until the “Big Squeeze” project of March 2021, several ramps around the spaghetti bowl did not meet the minimum standards needed to safely get up to speed and merge onto the freeway. This made rear-endings and sideswipes more common.
On a particularly busy day in fast-moving traffic, a driver may not be able to find an opening and could either be struck or cause a traffic jam as they wait to slow down.
While recent engineering changes might see crashes decrease over the next few years, the Spaghetti bowl and connecting highways within the city limits have historically seen about 4,000 crashes per year, roughly 30% of them fatal.
Next time you’re driving through the spaghetti bowl, watch out for merging vehicles and let them over if at all possible. It just might prevent a serious crash.
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