A road diet can cut accidents perhaps a third or more by calming traffic, the engineer overseeing Carson City’s downtown makeover project said Tuesday.
Speaking to Rotarians at the Carson Nugget, Danny Rotter of the Public Works Department said slimming a main street — in Carson’s case by reducing four lanes to three and widening sidewalks — may cut pedestrian accidents even more on a percentage basis. City government will embark next spring on a project already 30 percent designed that will redo the main drag from Fifth to William streets, add a plaza on West 3rd Street and eventually spruce up Curry Street.
Rotter said design will be completed by the end of this year.
“Then we’ll be under construction, probably by mid-March,” he said, with the Carson Street phase done by Nevada Day, 2016, “or I’m going to be finding another job.”
His joking reference to finishing by late October, 2016, drew laughter and dovetailed with his touting cooperative work under way with Loomis & Associates, the design firm, and Q & D Construction, the construction manager at risk that’s handling actual work. It’s an advantage to iron things out early, he said, praising Q & D for a previous project track record of working elsewhere with businesses to smooth road blockages and minimize impacts.
After the Rotary Club talk, Rotter checked his data and said the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has determined traffic accidents dwindle between 19 and 47 percent after a road diet. He said he had cited the mid-range impact.
Rotter also said FHWA counsel is roads with traffic counts under 20,000 daily should be evaluated for a road diet and those with 7,000 to 15,000 daily can handle a drop from four to three lanes with little or no impact on travel times. In his speech, Rotter had said Carson Street traffic counts show 16,500 cars daily, which should dip to 15,000 with I-580 bypass freeway completion. He said city government isn’t reinventing the wheel with this project.
The 3rd Street plaza, planned on a block marked for closure just west off Carson Street, will be done in conjunction with the main drag’s changes, Rotter said. He said the Curry Street facelift won’t come until 2018. He said that avoids conflict with the 2017 Nevada Legislature. Rotter also traced the project’s evolutionary history and noted it and some other city projects were financed by bonds based on a 2014 one-eighth of a penny city sales tax hike.
The Carson Street part of the plan includes not only three lanes and wider sidewalks, but bicycle lanes, some parking, underground utility upgrades and loss of the median.
Rotter addressed loss of median trees, saying the existing trees are nearing the end of their useful life. He said he would save some for transplanting elsewhere. He said there will be more new trees along Carson Street on the sides than current ones in the median, according to plans, and he got encouragement from the audience for the idea of saving any existing median trees possible.
Don Hataway, a Rotarian who formerly was city manager here and in Loveland, Colo., said moving such trees elsewhere gives them a chance to survive and thrive in a better environment for roots. Hataway, city manager in the Colorado community north of Denver from 1968-78 and here from 1978-81, also floated an idea on how to sell the idea of three lanes to detractors. He said Reno’s Virginia Street is three lanes south of California Street and it works there.