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

Statewide Bicycle Plan Survey

The Nevada Department of Transportation is developing a Statewide Bicycle Plan for the state highway system in Nevada. The project is focusing on policies, programs, legislation and infrastructure that increase safe bicycling in rural communities in Nevada. The intent of this survey is to learn more about people’s preferences for bicycling in Nevada. Your input is critical to the success of this plan. The following survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete and they are accepting responses until Tuesday December 6th.

NDOT Bicycle Plan Survey

The link to the online survey is here:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NevadaStatewideBicyclePlan

Here is the PDF Version of the Flyer if you’d like to share it.

Don’t forget to complete the survey by Tuesday, December 6th, 2011!

NDOT meeting on Hwy 50 tonight

NDOT is holding an scoping (informational) meeting about the section of Highway 50 between Deer Run Road and Hwy 341 to Virginia City, the “Mound House” section. This section has seen an epidemic of  fatalities and serious injury crashes this year, so NDOT is accelerating planning to improve the highway. (Nevada Appeal article)

This project could also make things safer for bicyclists, if it is designed correctly, but it could also make things worse for bicyclists, if it is not. There are several bicyclists who commute regularly from Dayton to Carson City, and the roadway sees quite a lot of recreational use on weekends. Tim Rowe of Alta Alpina Cycling Club, and Muscle Powered board member, has asked that people attend the meeting tonight to ask questions and provide information about bicycle facilities on this section of highway.

The highway itself should either have wide shoulders (six feet or more) or marked bike lanes, and any cross streets or grade separations should have marked bike lanes as well as sidewalks. A separate multi-use path might be appropriate in some areas, however, it must not be inconvenient or unsafe for commuting bicyclists to access the path. Lowering the speed limit on the highway should definitely be considered, since speed is the biggest contributor to fatality and injury in accidents. A widened highway that encourages higher speed would be a mistake for all users. The Nevada Appeal article mentions acceleration and deceleration lanes. These can be a significant hazard to bicyclists if they are not designed and stripped properly, and again, they allow higher speeds.

The meeting is Thursday, October 21, 2010, 4:00 to 7:00 PM, at the Lyon County Utilities Building, 34 Lakes Blvd #103, Dayton NV. A notice of the meeting with sketch map is available at http://budget.state.nv.us/clearinghouse/Notice/2011/E2011-058.pdf.

A Highway 50 Corridor Study from 2007 is available http://www.nevadadot.com/planning/pdfs/US_50_2007.pdf. The study mentions bicycles in a number of places but doesn’t make clear that bicycle facilities are needed along this entire stretch, nor does it define what sorts of facilities might be provided. The Carson City Unified Pathways Master Plan from 2006 indicates an existing on-street bike lane out to the county line (though it is insufficiently marked for this), and a proposed paved shared path (bicycles and pedestrians, not horses) to the county line, and then indicates a shared street (shoulder) in Lyon County. The CAMPO Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) from 2009 shows the Lyon County portion to Hwy 341 as a bicycle lane proposed (page 5-19).

NDOT turns its back on biking and walking

no pedestrian facilities in Las Vegas, PedBikeImages, Dan Burden

State transportation agencies recently had to return unspent money to the federal government, in a process called rescission. Twenty states cut transportation enhancement (TE) funds at or at less than their share of the overall transportation budget. Nevada chose to gut the TE program by taking 62% of the rescission from this program. Transportation enhancement funds are used for bicycle and pedestrian enhancement projects, as well as some others. Though all projects are supposed to accommodate bicyclists and walkers, they often do not, and certainly projects built in the past did not, so there is much work to do just to bring these modes to a share of the public roadways. Transportation enhancement funds can be used to make streets and highways into “complete streets,” facilities that serve all modes of transportation.

Why did Nevada have so much in unspent TE funds to begin with? Because the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) drags its feet on implementing projects to enhance biking and walking. Why did they take so much from TE? Because NDOT does not support the idea of bikers and walkers as having a right to a share of transportation infrastructure.

Rails to Trails’ rescissions page has more detail, and the linked table show just where Nevada stands. Not at the bottom, but third from the bottom, exceeded only by Nebraska and Texas. Several states, recognizing the backlog of bicycle and pedestrian projects that are critically important to safety and fairness, did not cut any funds from transportation enhancement.

Muscle Powered wrote to NDOT Administrator Susan Martinovich asking that transportation enhancement funds be cut in proportion to their share of the budget, or not at all, but we’ve received no reply. If this is important to you, you may want to write Martinovich yourself, or contact the new media. If NDOT succeeds in gutting transportation enhancement this time, they will continue to do it in the future.

Hwy 395 Update

this lower section will still be a problem

A meeting was held on Wednesday, June 9 with four bicycle advocates and three NDOT employees to discuss the lack of accommodation for bicyclists in the Hwy 395 third lane project now being constructed between Jacks Valley Rd and Lupin Dr. In the meeting were: Steve Lani – Resident Engineer for Project, NDOT Construction Division, Bill Story – Manager, NDOT Bicycle, Pedestrian & Safe Routes to School Programs, Paul Sinnott – Assistant Design Chief, NDOT Roadway Design Division, Tim Rowe – Nevada Bicycle Board & Alta Alpina Cycling Club, Denis Coyne – Nevada Bicycle Board & Bike Shop owner near construction, Sig Jaunarajs – Chairman, Nevada Bicycle Board, and Dan Allison – MusclePowered & Carson City Safe Routes to School Coordinator.

The agreement from the meeting was that NDOT will take the following actions:

  1. The speed limit will be left at 45 mph for the remainder of the project, 24×7, and Highway Patrol will be informed.
  2. In the upper section between Jacks Valley Rd and Topsy Ln, there will be a three foot “bike lane” striped with an additional two feet or so of pavement including the rumble strip, before the barrier. The barrier was just added over the last three days. The three feet will be gained by narrowing the vehicle lanes to 11 feet. This will take about one week to accomplish the re-striping.
  3. A message sign will be placed south of Jacks Valley Rd which notifies all users of the narrowed lanes and presence of bicycles.
  4. Bicyclists will not be prohibited from “taking the lane” through the entire construction zone, but these actions will provide an alternative for those who are not comfortable with doing so.

The lower section, Topsy to Lupin, will still have no shoulder and bicyclists will have to take the lane if they want to use this section.

A detour around the lower section was discussed, however, the detour would need to include a temporary paved path through the construction area on Topsy Ln (which is a Douglas County project rather than NDOT project), and though the detour would not actually be out of the way for most destinations, bicyclists unfamiliar with the area would not likely take the detour. For those who want to detour, there is a Google map. One could also turn left onto Topsy, go down Vista Grande Blvd to Old Clear Creek Rd and then out to cross Hwy 395 to Lupin Dr, but this requires crossing two lanes of traffic to the left turn lanes onto Topsy.

These actions do not make the route safe, just less unsafe than it was. Probably the biggest difference is reducing the speed limit to 45 mph, but the effectiveness of this depends upon active enforcement by the Nevada Highway Patrol. If you notice drivers significantly exceeding the speed limit here, please report them to NHP, or if there is a general problem, contact NHP and ask for more enforcement.

If you are using this section of Hwy 395, whether for commuting, shopping, or recreation, please report your experiences back here to the blog. We will pass concerns along to NDOT.

NDOT endangers bicyclists on 395

no shoulder on Hwy 395 north of Topsy

The NDOT project to add a third lane northbound to Hwy 395 between Jacks Valley Rd and Lupin Dr is a danger to bicyclists. At a public meeting on December 9, 2009, the NDOT project engineer Ken Mammen promised to Tim Rowe and others that bicyclists would be accommodated during construction of the project. That has not occurred. Part of the project, from Jacks Valley to Topsy, has a narrowed shoulder. A “Watch for Bicycles” sign is right in the middle of the shoulder, which would cause bicyclists to have to veer around it, and the sign is so small (much smaller than the other construction signs) that it is unlikely to be noticed by motorists. Things get worse north of Topsy, where the shoulder is now as narrow as six inches, up against a concrete barrier, and where it widens the pavement has rumble strips. The “Watch for Bicyclists” signs were not added until after the project was underway.

Yesterday I rode this section to see how bad it was, and I was nearly blown into the concrete barrier by a semi-truck. If I hadn’t been able to correct, I’d have either been thrown over the barrier or back into traffic and under a vehicle. Though there is a construction speed limit posted (I’m not sure what it is because the speed limit sign is hidden behind a construction barrel and I couldn’t catch it as I rode past), the traffic was moving at its usual 55 to 65 mph. Though I’m as strong a proponent of “take the lane” as anyone, it is not reasonable to assume that bicyclists will take the lane when the traffic is moving at 55 mph or more.

There are a number of commuters who use this roadway on a daily basis, and it is on the route for both local and touring recreational bicyclists going to and from Jacks Valley Rd and points further south. There are no other options. We asked NDOT to create a path along the alignment of Vista Grande Blvd as an alternative to Hwy 395 both during construction and afterwards, but they scoffed at us.

This project was fast tracked by NDOT so that they could get the ARRA funds. I’ve not talked to anyone who thinks this project is even necessary. I have talked to a number of people who are very, very angry that NDOT has ignored the safety needs of bicyclists.

Now that the project is underway, what are the solutions? I’d suggest that the speed limit be lowered to 35 mph for the duration of the project, and that it be actively enforced by the Highway Patrol. Another option is to narrow the motor vehicle lanes to one for the duration of the project, and make the right hand lane into a bicycle-only lane. Both of these might seem extreme, but this is a problem that NDOT created and is responsible for solving.

The project engineer for this project is Ken Mammen. His email is kmammen@dot.state.nv.us and phone is 775-888-7680.

Additional photos are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/sets/72157624227947568/.

A sea change for transportation

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s Fastlane blog announces a new policy that puts walking and bicycling on equal footing with motor vehicles! He uses the words “sea change,” and this certainly has the potential to be that. The policy includes:

  • Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
  • Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Go beyond minimum design standards.
  • Collect data on walking and biking trips.
  • Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
  • Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal).
  • Improve nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects.

Wow! You’ll want to read the detail of the policy as well.

Of course the federal government only has some control over what the states do, even with federal money, so it will also take change at the state level that has so far never happened. I think now is the time to exert pressure on NDOT and on the state legislature to change the way things are done in Nevada. A rational transportation system that works for everyone is now a step closer, and many many more steps are needed. Literally. We have a lot of poor decisions and damage from the past that will take a long time to correct, but if we can at least head in the right direction, we are moving towards a better world.