Six Mile Canyon to open today

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal  Storey County Public Works Director Rich Bacus and county Commissioner Greg "Bum" Hess walk over a flooded portion of Six Mile Canyon Road that was damaged during the flood on Jan 4, 2006.

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Storey County Public Works Director Rich Bacus and county Commissioner Greg "Bum" Hess walk over a flooded portion of Six Mile Canyon Road that was damaged during the flood on Jan 4, 2006.

Six Mile Canyon Road will finally open - without a toll booth or $300 commuter stickers - at 9 a.m. this morning, after being closed for nearly five months.

The road will, however, have stricter law enforcement to slow down speeders, according to Storey County Sheriff Jim Miller.

"We're stepping up enforcement," Miller warned.

Storey County commissioners voted 2-0 on Tuesday to open the road without a toll ordinance. The ordinance is still being reviewed by the county's insurance carrier.

Commissioner Greg "Bum" Hess said he still supports the concept of a toll road, and it remains an option.

"We're just waiting for legal opinion from the insurance company, in case we get sued - and we're pretty sure we're going to get sued," Hess said.

Rich Bacus, county Public Works director, said county workers put the final touches on the road Tuesday.

Mark Twain Estates resident Bobby Kittle, a painter and local entertainer who said he works seven days a week in Virginia City, has had to drive more than 30 miles around every day for the past five months.

"If you say that road is ready, then give me the keys and let me open the gate," he said.

Others were not so enthusiastic.

Druscilla Thyssen, who lives on Mill Street, which is what Six Mile Canyon Road becomes in Virginia City, and her boyfriend, Joe Panicaro of Reno, said they preferred that the road remained closed.

"From 6 a.m., you hear traffic zooming by her house," Panicaro said, adding that the problem with the drivers continues down Geiger Grade to Reno. "These people drive like maniacs; you have people on your bumper, no matter the weather or road conditions."

The road, closed since New Year's Eve flooding, is a major route for Dayton residents who then turn north onto Geiger Grade (State Route 341) to commute to Reno. Bacus estimated that before its closure, 1,400 people used the road daily, one way, and said he expects that to increase with Lyon County's growth.

"They don't respect citizens on the road, and they don't respect laws," Panicaro said of the Six Mile commuters. "They pass on double-yellow lines and then dive in front of you, and the weather is not a deterrent. But once the road was closed, it was a joy to drive Geiger Grade."

Thyssen told of how she once slowed to turn onto North O Street in Virginia City, with her teenage daughter in the car, and a pickup driver swerved around her on the left to pass, while someone behind the truck passed her on the right. She said that sort of thing happens often.

Panicaro said he supported a toll if the road was opened, but suggested a higher fee then the proposed $300 annual cost.

"If your idea is to deter use of Six Mile Canyon, make it more," he said. "Drivers are paying more than $300 in gas to go around through Carson City. Those who really need this road will probably gladly pay the $300."

Kittle said that before the commissioners "build a wall called a toll road," they should remember the potential for visitors from Lyon County.

"The people on C Street, since 1985 have been saying, 'Next year, it's going to get better,' and each year, it doesn't get better," he said. "Now, they're not just building houses down there, they're building communities.

"Finally, we're going to have thousands of people in that valley. They all come from out of state. And they are going to bring friends and family to Virginia City."

Hess said his latest proposal was to have the toll operate only from 5-8 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. to put the cost on commuters and not on tourists.

"If it weren't for the Bobby Kittles in Mark Twain, we might keep it closed," Hess said, acknowledging the problems faced by Thyssen and other Virginia City residents. "But we can open up the road, and the board will continue to look at options, including tolls and other financial support."

County Administrator Pat Whitten said the county will consider County Manager Donna Kristaponis' offer to provide manpower and equipment to help keep Six Mile Canyon Road maintained, as well as pursue financial assistance from the state.

Miller said he has obtained verbal agreements with the Lyon and Washoe county law enforcement agencies as well as the Nevada Highway Patrol to increase patrols not only on Six Mile Canyon Road, but also Geiger Grade.

"We'll step it up," Miller said, adding that prosecutions needed to be stepped up as well. "We're really going to nail (speeders). We're going to crack down and issue citations."

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@ or 882-2111, ext. 351.


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