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Advocates still pushing for downtown bike lanes after city selects firm for Virginia Street “placemaking study”

By Bob Conrad

The Reno City Council on Wednesday heard a presentation on the Virginia Street “placemaking study” progress. It selected a firm to conduct the study with an anticipated date of completion in August of 2022.

That’s well behind the previously anticipated date for the study to be completed last year and years after initial talks at City Hall of putting a bike lane on Center Street. 

Ky Plaskon, with the Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance, which is advocating for more downtown bike lanes, accused city officials of being too focused on Virginia Street at the behest of downtown casino interests.

“The City of Reno and RTC are too laser-focused on Virginia Street – meanwhile, they should be moving forward with real concrete change like the $13 million Center Street bike path which will economically boost the entire downtown, make it safer and fill a massive need,” he said. “They are subsidizing the studying of street improvements to benefit one casino company while denying economic development to the Center Street businesses.”

The shift to a “placemaking study” focused on downtown was criticized last year. Advocates said the placemaking study, funded in part by the Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission, is redundant.

“This project has been studied over and over as the most practical location for a connection between UNR and midtown because it can be done with minimal impact to traffic and it is already under design,” Manny Becerra announced on the Alliance’s website. “Unfortunately, the City and RTC have put a pause on the approved project at the urging of The Row Casinos [Eldorado, Silver Legacy and Circus Circus] to study a bike path on Virginia Street instead. This is causing months and even years of delays.”

Jeff Limpert with the city confirmed Wednesday the placemaking study would focus on Virginia Street. 

“I’m sure there are priorities for other streets, but at this time [the] council gave direction for looking at Virginia Street specifically, and so that’s what this study aims to do,” he said Wednesday.

A draft traffic analysis provided to RTC  in November shows a “cycle track” bike lane on Virginia Street downtown would create vehicle traffic backups during peak traffic hours. 

Although Plaskon used the word gridlock, here is the text from the study:

“A minimum width concept with only one lane of travel in each direction and no northbound or southbound turn pockets would be necessary between 1st Street and 4th Street. Under existing traffic volumes, vehicle delay and queuing would significantly increase in the Virginia Street corridor,” the analysis by Headway Transportation notes. “It should also be recognized that some traffic may shift to other parallel roadways if travel lanes are removed from Virginia Street.”

Plaskon said the city should proceed with Center Street now, given the previous studies on the issue.
“The City and RTC should be moving forward with what they know will work on Center Street while we rethink Virginia Street instead of stalling for years and desperately trying to make only a bike path on Virginia work and risk gridlock, delay economic development and putting the safety of students, tourists and families at risk,” he added.

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