Developers abandon Sonoma Street project

After several years of haggling for a stoplight, a California developer has pulled the plug on a retail project planned for south Carson City.

The project by Conkey Development has been pending for several years, contingent on a stoplight at the intersection of Highway 395 and Sonoma Street and the extension of Sonoma Street from Carson Street to Curry Street.

Despite traffic studies that show the development's estimated traffic rises above minimum state limits for a stoplight at the intersection, state transportation officials won't approve the signal's construction until studies are done to measure the actual traffic after the development's construction.

However, Conkey Development won't build on the site without a signal for the intersection.

"It's kind of frustrating," said Mark Palmer, project engineer of Palmer and Lauder Engineers. "As of now we've stopped work on the project. Conkey is not going to put $5 million into a project and not be assured a light will go in."

Scott Thorson, chief traffic engineer for the Nevada Department of Transportation, said because the traffic study showed the number of vehicles would be close to the minimum needed for a traffic signal, the estimates have to be backed up by actual traffic.

The state did approve a signal for Old Clear Creek road based on traffic studies for a Costco warehouse. Thorson said the Costco site has only one road in and out, and planning numbers were five times above the state minimums.

The proposed Conkey development would have secondary access to Curry Street.

"When it's not overwhelming, like four or five times over, we want them to verify it with actual numbers," Thorson said. "We just want to make sure when it opens that there is enough traffic to warrant a signal. If they're confident their numbers will meet the warrants, there's no problem.

"They just have to prove it to us with real numbers. We're not just telling this to these guys, we tell this to developments over the state."

The Carson City Regional Transportation Commission in March approved $200,000 to pay for the stoplight. Carson City has committed to putting the signal in and then wait for state approval to turn the signal on.

Company President Jim Conkey previously said he had planned to have the project done and operating by the end of the year, and that he had been stringing tenants along for months waiting for a decision. He estimated his retail project to cost $10 million, with $400,000 sales tax revenue to the city.

Conkey couldn't be reached Tuesday for comment.

Palmer said the development could move forward if the state would agree to the signal.

The signal would break up the longest open stretch of Carson Street, putting a light between Fairview Drive and Koontz Lane. It would also create a new access point between Sonoma Street and Carson Street. Sonoma Street is on the city's transportation master plan as a medium priority project to be completed sometime before 2005.


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