Tourists will come to ride the reconstructed Virginia & Truckee Railway from Carson City to Virginia City, but a recreational trail along the right-of-way will most benefit locals, said a member of a Carson City community walking and biking group.
"Imagine if someone came to ride the train to Virginia City and then rode their bike all the way back down," said Paul Carignan, a member of Muscle Powered. "There's a lot more of a benefit to it than people who just want to ride the train. Local residents will only occasionally ride the train when they have guests come into town, but if there's a trail, they can always use it. We believe there would be much more use by having both."
For about a year the nonprofit group has discussed creating a trail along the V&T, which will run 18 miles when completed. It was the groundbreaking of phase one from the Gold Hill depot to American Flat that spurred the group. The first 1.4 miles should be completed by mid-September. The entire $30 million tourist track is expected to be completed in 2009.
But railway officials are a little hesitant to have cyclists or pedestrians near the right-of-way.
"It's just not a safe thing," said Ron Allen, a commissioner on the board that is reconstructing the V&T. "A train can't stop very fast, and if someone was riding along and fell along the train, it would be a disaster. We definitely do not want to get into a position where we have something like this happen."
He said Carson City might be able to provide some areas for bike paths at a safe distance. But some areas of the route, such as beside the Carson River, are barely wide enough for the train track. The V&T also cuts through Lyon and Storey counties.
Carignan said many other cities have been able to share the right-of-way with hikers and bikers, so he'd like to see that done here. Muscle Powered plans to partner with the national program Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, which works toward creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines.
"You have to be safe and not interfere with the operation of the train," he said. "Liability issues have been dealt with by other communities."
And if a trail can't follow the entire 18 miles, the hikers and bikers could take a nearby route. But it all depends on community support, Carignan said. The group is organizing a subcommittee, open to the general public, that will work toward the goal.
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.
Workers laying the tracks are about two-thirds completed
Although construction on the first phase of the Virginia & Truckee Railway from the Gold Hill Depot to American Flat was initially scheduled to be completed in late August, the project manager anticipates the last rail to be hammered in by mid-September.
The Nevada Department of Transportation, which has overseen $2.74 million in federal enhancement funding for the project, granted contractor Granite Construction seven more days to complete the 1.4 miles of railroad. Project Manager John O'Day said when it's all done they will have logged 107 days of work.
"It's not unusual for projects to be extended," said NDOT spokesman Scott Magruder. "We all agreed and it was a minimal cost."
O'Day said workers had to complete additional excavation that wasn't described in the original project bid.
"We had additional off-haul of excavation that had to be performed on the project, leading to the Overman Pit."
O'Day said NDOT requires work to cease over holidays and the day preceding and following the holiday because of increased traffic. So that means workers had to take off July 1, 4 and 5. Since the project began in April, they have had six "non-working days," and probably will have another three over Labor Day.
One complicated aspect of the project was filling a section of the Overman Pit. Workers transported 310,000 cubic feet of dirt, laid 140 feet deep, over a 1,000-foot-wide area to fill the old mining pit.
- Becky Bosshart
The Muscle Powered V&T trail subcommittee will seek to build support for a multi-use path along the V&T's right-of-way. Its first meeting is at 5 p.m. Friday at Comma Coffee, 312 S. Carson St. For information call Paul Carignan at 841-6810 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org