Nevada Complete Streets bill – Good news and bad news

Muscle Powered led ride in Carson City

Muscle-Powered-organized ride in Carson City. The Nevada Complete Streets bill may provide funding for improvements such as bike lanes on this street in Carson City.

The Nevada Complete Streets bill was designed to provide a local funding source for transportation improvements to make local streets “Complete Streets” – streets that are safe and inviting for people using all transportation modes – walkers, baby strollers, people using canes, people using wheelchairs, bicyclist, buses, trolleys – rather than just for cars and trucks.

The bill would have provided an opt-out fee of $2 on all Nevada motor vehicle registrations, with the fee going directly to local transportation agencies to use only on complete streets projects – projects like bike lanes, curb ramps for wheelchairs, safety improvements near schools, bike boulevards and more.

The good news is that the bill passed.

The bad news is that the bill won’t be implemented until the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles finds some funding to make the changes to their computer system that would allow them to collect the fee.

Government by fiscal note

In the Nevada legislature, state agencies are asked to put a fiscal note on bills being considered by lawmakers. That means the agency goes through the bill and estimates how much it will cost to implement it. When the DMV looked at the Complete Streets bill, the agency estimated it would cost over $225,000 to implement the bill – this was mostly to pay for contract computer programmers.

This large a fiscal note, in these constrained times, is the death of a bill. In an Assembly committee hearing on the bill, Assemblyman Dave Bobzien expressed frustration at this, noting that he has seen more than one good bill go down because the DMV never has enough money to upgrade its computer system.

But bill supporters scrambled for a solution, and in meetings with DMV administrators, crafted amendments that would essentially put off implementation of the bill until funding was available for the DMV to add the complete streets fees to its system. The amended bill passed both houses unanimously and was signed by the governor.

Nevada Complete Streets advocates say they’re considering bringing the bill back to the 2015 legislative session, this time as a mandatory fee, which wouldn’t cost so much to implement.

Show your support for Bicycle and Pedestrian project on Fifth Street

A message from Patrick Pittenger, Transportation Manager, Carson City Public Works.

Carson City Bicycle and Pedestrian Advocates-

I am contacting you to request your support this week for a bicycle and pedestrian project in Carson City.

The City entered an agreement with the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) to use Federal Enhancement funds to construct bike lanes and sidewalk on E. Fifth Street from east of Saliman Road to the E. Fifth Street freeway overpass. We received notice to proceed for design and submitted 90% plans this week. Unfortunately, NDOT used the Enhancement funds that were supposed to be for this project (and others in the state) for their own projects and transferred the funds to other programs, and now, as we’re almost ready to go to construction, there is no funding left for construction. Working with NDOT staff, we determined that there is about $1.5 in unobligated Safe Routes to School funds still available, and NDOT agreed to schedule a special meeting of the Nevada Bicycle and Pedestrian Board on February 28 to ask the Board to approve using those funds for three projects – the Carson City project and one each in Washoe and Clark Counties.

Fifth Street
5th Street looking east towards the overpass

I just learned that NDOT staff has decided to present a total of six projects to the Board on February 28th to decide which of those will receive the available funds. I am asking you to attend the meeting on February 28th at 8:30 am here in Carson City to help support funding the project.

When:
8:30 AM, February 28th, 2013

Meeting Location:
NV Department of Transportation
King St. Facility
3rd Floor, Conf. Room
400 W. King St.
Carson City, NV

Download Meeting Agenda

The argument I will make – which I hope you will support – is as follows: The E. Fifth Street project should be selected because it meets the Safe Routes to School requirements of being located within two miles of multiple K-8 school facilities, and has many other factors in its favor. While high school students were not the target of the Safe Routes program, they too would benefit from this project. In fact, the entire community would benefit from this project because it serves to connect existing and planned facilities. While it would be possible to locate a project that is located in closer proximity to a K-8 school, this project should be funded because selecting, designing, and constructing a different project at this point would take years, whereas this project could be implemented this year. Additionally, Carson City has demonstrated a dedication to funding projects that would have otherwise been Safe Routes to School projects with other funds. Specific examples include using HUD/CDBG funds of over $400,000 around Empire Elementary School, using about $500,000 in Enhancement funds on Roop Street to provide a connection between a low-income neighborhood and Mark Twain Elementary School which serves it, and using city (non-grant) funds on streets like Thompson Street near Bordewich-Bray Elementary School (among other projects). We have clearly demonstrated our commitment to the intent of the Safe Routes to School Program by implementing projects – and not just with Safe Routes funds.

The E. Fifth Street Project is the only project in Carson City or the greater Carson Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) area to be before the Board on the 28th. It is also the smallest project financially among those to be considered at $225,000. Funding the project with these replacement funds still leaves sufficient money available to funds larger projects in both Clark and Washoe Counties. Finally, unlike other urban areas of the state, there are many fewer options available to Carson City to pursue to fund this project.

Fifth Street
5th Street looking west towards Saliman Road

I appreciate your support, and would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Thank you for your support.

Patrick Pittenger, AICP, PTP
Transportation Manager
Carson City Public Works
3505 Butti Way
Carson City, NV 89701
ppittenger@carson.org
(p) 775-283-7396
(f) 775-887-2112

Roop Street Bicycle and Pedestrian Project to Begin

Construction of bicycle and pedestrian facilities is about to begin on Roop Street between Winnie Lane and Northridge Drive! Although short, this stretch of road is currently one of the more dangerous areas in town for cyclists and pedestrians. Safe and well used bicycle facilities exist on either side of Lone Mountain, but cyclists must brave fast traffic and a crumbling shoulder if they wish to connect the two areas. And although pedestrians are instructed not to use this route, no other reasonable routes exist nearby. It’s not uncommon to see a baby stroller being pushed through the dirt and gravel on the side of the road to get over the hill to the shopping center.

NOT a complete Street
Roop Street over Lone Mountain in 2009

Here are the details from Carson Now about the project:

Work is expected to begin August 27 on a Carson CIty project to provide bicycle and pedestrian improvements on North Roop Street from Winnie Lane to Northridge Drive. The Carson City Regional Transportation Commission has awarded a contract which will connect existing bicycle and pedestrian facilities in Carson City, according to a news release. Roop Street between Winnie Lane and Northridge Drive currently does not have a sidewalk or bike lanes, and people often try to use a narrow strip of concrete against a wall to travel this section of road. After the project is completed this fall, there will be bike lanes on both sides of the road and sidewalk connections to existing sidewalks on North Roop Street and Northridge Drive.

There has been widespread support from the City’s bicycling and walking community and from school district representatives. City representatives are very pleased that this project is being implemented. “We’re happy to implement a project which connects other existing facilities and will provide for safety improvements” said Patrick Pittenger, Transportation Manager in the Carson City Public Works Department.

The project is being funded primarily by a Federal grant acquired by City staff through the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT). This project is one of several bicycle and pedestrian projects recently funded through grants overseen by NDOT. “The Nevada Department of Transportation is pleased to work with our local partners to implement a project with funds secured by the State” said Tracy Larkin-Thomason, Assistant Director of Planning for the Nevada Department of Transportation.

The road is expected to remain open to traffic except for a one-week period planned for early October. Motorists are thanked for their patience and safe driving in the work zone.

For additional information, please contact Patrick Pittenger at (775) 283-7396.

When completed, Roop Street over Lone Mountain will safely connect neighborhoods and businesses on both sides of the hill. It will also further complete the longest, continuous north-south bicycle route in Carson City, stretching from Emerson Drive on the north to Silver Sage near the county line on the south. It has been a long time coming, and we can’t wait!

New bikeway design guide

bike lane buffered from parking

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has published an online guide to modern bicycle facilities, the Urban Bikeway Design Guide. This easy to use guide provides examples and specifications for a large number of progressive facilities of the sort that have long been used internationally and are becoming common in several large and medium sized north American cities.

Though Carson City has only some urban characteristics, there are nevertheless several great ideas here that could be used in Carson City to provide a safer and more welcoming climate for bicycling. For example, buffered bike lanes (buffered from motor vehicle traffic and/or parked cars) could make many people more comfortable riding on the street, as well as use up some of the excess pavement that exists on four lane streets with low traffic volumes (Saliman between Colorado and Sonoma, for example). Shared lane markings could replace “share the road” locations such as Hot Springs Rd, with the addition of “bikes may use full lane” signs rather than the “share the road” signs currently placed. Take a look at the guide, and I’m sure you’ll see a number of ideas that could be implemented here in Carson City.

The guide has photos, diagrams, measurements, clear language about what is MUTCD and AASHTO bike guide compliant, and links to projects where the treatments have already been successfully implemented.

Streetsblog has a post that introduces the guide.

Sidewalk improvements on Saliman

new sidewalk and ramps on Saliman at Damon

The city has nearly finished a project to improve sidewalks along Saliman Road between Seeliger Elementary School and Colorado St. Eleven corners were improved with ADA compliant ramps (which help everyone, not just the disabled), and some rough sections of sidewalk were replaced. The best part from a Safe Routes to School perspective is that the drain inlet which used to be right in the middle of the crosswalk over Saliman at Damon Road was moved to the north, out of the crosswalk. This drain inlet was in the worst possible place. It’s one of those drains which both scared you and fascinated you when you were a kid, not the kind of thing you want to face first thing in the morning on your way to school.

A big bravo to Carson City Public Works for this project, which was funding by the regular sidewalk repair program.

Confessions of a Recovering Engineer

Anne asked that we cross-post the article Confessions of a Recovering Engineer from Strong Towns Blog, an engineer’s take on the profession and how we’ve gotten into our current fix by prioritizing speed over other values. The article has generated 46 comments in the last week, and comments are remarkably on-topic and intelligent for the Internet.