Three Muscle Powered members, Anne Maquarie, Tim Rowe, and Dan Allison, attended the NDOT public meeting last night at Fuji Park on adding a northbound lane to Hwy 395 from Jacks Valley Rd to Old Clear Creek Rd. There were few other members of the public there, and only one of them spoke.
When Tim asked what consideration had been made for bicyclists during the construction period when there would be a concrete barrier on the right side of the highway rather than a shoulder, he got blank looks and a long pause from the NDOT engineers and Manhard consultants. They clearly had never thought about it.
Anne asked about how bicycles were going to be accommodated in this project. The best answer they could give was that bicycles would be taken care of in future projects, including the Hwy 395 – Hwy 50 interchange. The interchange is at least five years away, if not longer, whereas this project would be finished within a year.
Several of the engineers “thought” there might be accommodations for bicycles on Hwy 395 itself as it passes under the Hwy 50 bridge, but they weren’t sure. I’ve looked at the construction documents from NDOT for the freeway Phase 2B, and I see nothing on the drawings that says or implies bicycle lanes. The interchange is a SPUI (single point urban interchange), similar to the new one at Hwy 50 East and Hwy 395 but on a grander scale, which is hazardous for bicyclists and pedestrians. This one has double and even triple ramp lanes, nearly impossible for anyone to cross safely. It also has free rights onto the freeway, which are difficult for a bicyclist to navigate even when the lanes are striped correctly, and NDOT has not striped correctly on the two existing SPUIs in Carson City.
Dan suggested providing an alternative bicycle route to Hwy 395 as mitigation since this project would increase lanes that must be crossed by northbound bicyclists from 4 to 5 at Topsy Ln and from 4 to 6 at Old Clear Creek Rd. The answer was that they thought there might be a future project to provide bicycle facilities somewhere else, but they weren’t sure. Dan asked about the narrow lanes on Lupin Dr southbound as it approaches the intersection with Hwy 395 and crosses over to Old Clear Creek Rd. Several different answers were provided by different people about how wide the lanes were going to be. Clearly, they hadn’t thought about this. When both Anne and I brought up the AASHTO guideline for bicycle facilities as requiring either a separate bicycle lane of at least 5 feet or a shared lane of at least 14 feet, most of the engineers looked blank, as though they’d never heard of such a thing.
I believe the right thing to do is carry the 395 Principal Bicycle Route through to Vista Grande Blvd and Jacks Valley Rd so that only those who want to ride on Hwy 395 will need to. At Lupin Dr, the roadway would be widened so that it either has bicycle lanes or is a signed shared lane of at least 14 feet. Old Clear Creek Rd already has designated bicycle lanes, for some time on the north side and now on the south side with the completion of the city’s project next to Fuji Park. The section of Vista Grande Blvd crossing Clear Creek is narrow and deteriorated, but usable by bicyclists for now. The newer part behind the Walmart and Carson Valley Plaza shopping centers does not have bicycle lanes but is wide enough to have. But there there is a gap between the back of Carson Valley Plaza (where Bicycle Habitat is) and Jacks Valley Rd. What I believe NDOT should do is add bicycle lanes to the existing part of Vista Grande Blvd and construct a temporary multi-use path from the current end of Vista Grande through to Jacks Valley Rd, as part of THIS project. I feel that is is inappropriate to have one project make travel for bicyclists less safe and hope that a future project will fix the problem. I’ve created a map showing how this route would carry through, both as an online Google Map and in a document (thumbnail at right).
A number of times the Project Coordinator Ken Mammen replied to questions with the statement that this project has to be done now or the money will be lost – it is American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus) money – as though this somehow justified a poorly planned project.
Public comment on this project is open until December 23, and information about how to comment is at http://www.nevadadot.com/pub_involvement/meetings/displaydocument.asp?MeetingDocument=395TN.htm&ID=496.