By Ky Plaskon | Additional reporting by Bob Conrad
Concrete from a major thoroughfare through Reno is falling into the street, parking lot and river. The driving surface has more than 50 potholes. Underneath, a light is missing, and exposed wiring dangles.
On the sides, rusty rebar vibrates with the rumble of cars above every day. Recently, barricades were erected below to protect people and cars from being hit by falling debris. While the Keystone Avenue Bridge might sound scary, officials said it’s okay for now.
“The Keystone Bridge is considered to be structurally deficient, but it is not unsafe,” said Paul Nelson with Washoe RTC. “The RTC is working with NDOT to replace the bridge as soon as 2027. The visible damage on the bridge is aesthetic but does not affect its structural integrity.”
Sara Going, also with RTC, said repairs on the bridge are happening now.
“The City of Reno is currently working on spot repairs to the bridge railing, and the RTC has a bridge resurfacing project that is slated to start in the fall,” she said.
The Keystone Bridge is one of five bridges in the region and 10 statewide called ‘structurally deficient’ according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association 2021 report.
Washoe County has more structurally deficient bridges than the much larger Las Vegas because bridges over the Truckee are more challenging to replace.
“The Truckee River’s status as a natural and cultural resource means we will also be completing an extensive environmental and permitting process prior to construction,” Going said.
The bridge is one of a handful that will be replaced. Others include the Arlington, Sierra Street and Greg Street bridges. RTC officials said to expect announcements for public meetings in the near future.
“The Keystone Avenue Bridge is a major structure, located in one of the most beautiful areas of our city,” Going said. “Replacing a bridge like this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”
While it’s a once in a generation opportunity, we are also seeing a piece of history fall apart before our eyes.
The Nevada Department of Transportation inspects the bridge.
“The most recent routine inspection performed … in 2022 reveals that, per national inspection standards, the bridge deck and supporting superstructure (the load-bearing frame and beams which support the bridge) are ranked in ‘fair’ condition,” NDOT’s Meg Ragonese said. “The substructure (bridge piers and abutments, etc.) is ranked in ‘poor’ condition.”
Ragonese said another inspection is planned for this spring. Plans for its replacement remain to be seen, but pedestrian and bike amenities are expected for the new bridge.
“Replacement of the bridge will let us improve walkability and bike-ability in the bridge corridor,” Going said, adding that micromobility – bikes, pedestrians, scooters – will be a major focus for the area. “We’ll be asking: How can we fit bike lanes and sidewalks on the bridge itself? Do they need to be on their own structure? Can we connect those facilities to Riverside Drive where there are a lot of people walking and biking?
“Overall, how do we create the best connections that serve different users and make it all work really, really well?”
Keystone Avenue serves a mini spaghetti bowl of roads – Booth, Foster and California – with thousands of daily commutes to I-80, Idlewild Park events, Reno High School and Hunter Lake Elementary.
“We are also working on protected bike lanes on Vine Street, which connects to Riverside Drive close to the Keystone Bridge and extends north over I-80,” Going said. “We definitely want the pedestrian and bike connections we construct with this bridge to be high-quality and low-stress. That may include forms of greater separation from vehicle traffic on the bridge.”
Anyone who would like to share their experience in the Keystone Bridge area and what they hope to see with this bridge project is encouraged to email Sara Going at [email protected]
Ky Plaskon is the president of the all-volunteer Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance, BikeWashoe.org.