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PHOTOS: Downtown closed to traffic for ‘micro-mobility’ street work

By Bob Conrad

City of Reno officials last month said new micro-mobility – foot, bike and scooter traffic – changes would be coming to downtown by the end of this month.

Traffic today was mostly closed to north-south access on Virginia Street as road crews were painting new striping on streets. But some east-west traffic was also prevented from crossing Virginia Street. Cars trying to cross the street had to turn around after facing blockades once they reached Virginia Street.

“We saw huge changes just on the very first day of construction when the street closed,” said Ky Plaskon with the Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance. “While the street closure is great and lots of people want to ride on Virginia Street, in terms of micro-mobility, there are some serious issues.”

Northbound on Virginia Street will cease at First Street where drivers will have to turn left or right. Southbound on Virginia Street will be one way between Fifth Street and First. Fifth Street between Keystone and Evans avenues will be reduced to one lane each way.

Traffic changes to downtown. Image: City of Reno.
Traffic changes to downtown. Image: City of Reno.

Reno City Manager Doug Thornley said he was excited about the changes.

“I’m thrilled that we’re able to pursue a real, tangible micro-mobility project that will help people move between downtown, midtown, Keystone and Evans,” he said. “That sort of street-level activity is something the city has been looking to facilitate for years. This project crosses so many of our strategic goals, from economic development and activation, to environmental sustainability, to a healthier citizenry.”

Plaskon said the changes sidestep what his group has been pushing for years – a bike track on Center Street, the block that runs parallel to Virginia Street. 

A letter by downtown casino attorney Mike Pagni in November of 2020 prompted the change from Center to Virginia street, Plaskon said.

“Instead of pandering to The Row, the City and RTC should be moving forward with what we know will work, which is Center Street,” he said. “They can do their fun little Virginia Street experiment at the same time. We shouldn’t let The Row micromanage micro-mobility in Reno. We are better than that.”

Pagni in a 2020 letter to Bill Thomas, executive director of the Washoe Regional Transportation Commission, requested Virginia Street get more pedestrian access. (Pagni is now with Di Loreto Companies, as of March of this year.)

“The ROW requests that the Study include a focus on new transportation investments along the Virginia Street corridor to revitalize downtown and create a clean, safe and attractive Destination,” he said in the 2020 letter. “We request the study evaluate streetscape and landscape improvements to lighting, landscaping, and sidewalks on Virginia Street. 

“Activating Virginia Street will also accelerate considerations by the ROW properties to open their buildings up to pedestrian activity on Virginia Street through sidewalk cafes, etc.,” he added.

The Center Street plan was subsequently put on hold. Instead of a study, City of Reno officials implemented the Virginia Street pilot project. It is expected to be in place until October.

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