Carson City Transportation Manager Patrick Pittenger said the downtown Carson Street makeover isn’t reinventing the wheel and will gain acceptance once finished.
He made those statements during a question-answer session after his part of a presentation at a Chamber of Commerce group of leadership class graduation. It was sandwiched between two public open house sessions on the same streetscape changes designed to slow traffic, encourage pedestrians, and add bicycle lanes as well.
“Once they get implemented,” Pittenger said of similar projects in other cities that have already been done, “they’re very well accepted.”
Skepticism, however, was voiced before the presentation by some in the crowd of about 50 as a couple made pre-presentation comments that showed they didn’t think it would help businesses or business development. Maurice White, an Airport Authority member, and Assemblyman Pete Livermore sat together and raised concerns about the project aiding commercial development. Livermore cited a Fallon road project’s failure to help business there.
The gathering, billed as a Reimagining Carson City workshop, also included Community Development Director Lee Plemel and Deputy City Manager Marena Works. She offered opening remarks, saying because the Board of Supervisors already enacted the finance underpinning for this and other projects she hoped those present would embrace the “exciting projects” and provide input.
Livermore was the first to question Plemel after Works introduced him. The Carson City assembly representative and former supervisor asked about city government’s goal and if it was to revive businesses of a half century ago.
“I’m not going to stand up here and say this is a ‘silver bullet,’” Plemel replied, though he did say economic stimulation, which has happened elsewhere after such projects, was part of the goal. He said the goal isn’t throwback oriented. “We’re not re-inventing the commercial core of the (19)60s.”
Gil Yanuck, former head of the chamber board, said he liked parts of the design but said downtown property owners need to buy in and refurbish the look to help promote business. He said he particularly liked pre-2010 plan had been altered from just two lanes. “I think the three lanes is far more palatable,” he said.
Pittenger, meanwhile, made his comment about not reinventing the wheel and said the three lane concept, along with other aspects, amount to a compromise some outsiders have said doesn’t go far enough. Carson Street currently is four lanes and there has been continuing opposition to cutting the number of lanes to just two.
Plemel and Pittenger also said bike lanes are helpful for all, not just bicyclists, and addressed the no right turn part of the design. In the transition to three lanes, they said, right turns will be allowed for northbound traffic at 5th and Musser streets, and southbound at Washington Street even though the project footprint is from 5th to Williams streets. The center lane in the project’s core, however, will be for left turns only.