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City Council, Mayor Chastise RTC Over Virginia Street Project (Subscriber Content)


Midtown street design. Image: Bob Conrad.
Midtown street design. Image: Bob Conrad.

The Regional Transporation Commission of Washoe County received a major drubbing at last week’s City Council meeting. At issue was RTC allegedly not communicating with stakeholders ignoring business owner desires, and saying one thing but doing another.

By the end of the Midtown District road construction update by RTC Director Lee Gibson, Mayor Hillary Schieve directed RTC to come back for plans to make Virginia Street one way.

Business owners, since construction, have cited increased parking and walking traffic now that the main street is closed heading north.

Reno Mayor
Hillary Schieve.

“We have an opportunity to get this right,” Schieve said. She implored Gibson to come up with new options for the street.

But RTC has been on record saying making Virginia Street one way through Midtown is not doable.

Gibson said it was not possible because utility construction would need to be halted immediately for a redesign process. The road project has been discussed and hashed out for years as it is. Bus operations would be adversely impacted, and the project’s environmental assessment would also have to be updated.

“We’ve heard a great deal of appreciation for the traffic control plan we have today,” Gibson noted, talking about the one-way, southbound traffic through the area. “Our number one transit line is on Virginia Street, and having one-way traffic operations would preclude us — given the right-of-way we have — (from) having the two-way transit options we need to support transit line to deliver people to their destinations.

“It’s just something we can’t do at this point.”

Midtown road construction. Image: Ty O’Neil

More Accountability Requested

Business owner and Midtown Business District President Kasey Christensen said business owners still have concerns.

“We still have not had our parking needs meet,” she said. “Where we find ourselves now is there’s been a lot of back and forth with RTC. They’ve done a really wonderful job of listening. I just find (us) at this place of, I’m curious as to how much they have integrated that into the plan they are presenting to us now.”

She encouraged RTC to make the corridor more than about buses.

“I don’t mean to be rude, Lee, but you guys are not good at this.”

“I felt like there was a lot of talking and a lot listening but I don’t know how much of that was turned into implementation as far as the final plan goes,” Christensen added, while asking the council to help make RTC more accountable.

Schieve asked Gibson: “What’s going on?

“I don’t mean to be rude, Lee, but you guys are not good that this,” she said in reference to the decor planned for the project. “You really have to let these businesses and residents shape this. This street has got to be different.

“I am begging with you and pleading with you (that) it’s got to be different. I want other cities to come here and go, ‘Oh my god, we could do that in our city,'” she added. “I get a little emotional about this.”

RTC sent a response to ThisisReno when asked for comment about last week’s meeting.

“During the past couple of months, the RTC and the City of Reno have been discussing the design, funding, and quantity of benches and bike racks in the Midtown corridor.

“Through a potential mutual agreement between the RTC and the City of Reno, an inter-local agreement is being drafted that would provide the City of Reno with funding that would enable the City of Reno to design, purchase, manufacture and install benches and bike racks in Midtown.

“The RTC will continue to work with the Reno City Council, Midtown business owners, and the community to create a Midtown corridor that is safe, vibrant and accessible to everyone.”

Disclosure: At RTC’s request, ThisisReno provided a video advertising proposal to the agency that would have promoted Midtown businesses during construction.

Despite verbal approval by RTC’s Communications Director Michael Moreno, RTC stopped communicating with us last fall, despite phone calls, text messages, and, ultimately, an email to Director Gibson — until requesting comment for this story.

“We did not pursue the proposal during this first part of construction due to the extensive and successful outreach and promotion of and for businesses in Midtown,” Moreno finally explained. “Our outreach program and advertising proved to be very effective.

“Our delivery of the outreach program was acknowledged by the City Council and the community characterizing it as excellent and very supportive for the businesses. Because we have a limited budget to spend on outreach of the project, it made sense to hold off at this time being very mindful to be prudent in the use of taxpayer funds.”

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR.