Two Carson City commissions sent the Nevada Department of Transportation a strong message Wednesday regarding funding for the proposed freeway multi-use path.
The message: Carson City has given enough money to fund the freeway, therefore the state should step up and fund the $3.3 million path.
In a joint meeting of the Regional Transportation and Parks and Recreation commissions, members of both voted against a proposal that would have sent $1.7 million of city funds to help fund the proposed freeway multi-use path.
The money would have been drawn from RTC road tax dollars and Question 18 Quality of Life funds, payable over the next 17 years at up to $50,000 a year from each fund. Neither commission wanted to see another long-term draw on Carson City funds go toward the freeway.
"No other community in the state said, 'take all my five-cent optional tax and build a bypass,'" Transportation Commissioner Marv Teixeira said. "Nobody has ever made a commitment like that. Nobody ever handed the state a blank check except for us. We gave them everything we had to give. Now we're going to cross hairs over $3 million?
"Why should we take money from parks? Do we start mortgaging for 17 years of a park fund? That's madness. And $50,000 from RTC - we're going to cut our contingencies more? No way. If they haven't got this in a $130 million project and we can make it pretty darn special for an extra $3 million, NDOT needs to step up. We've paid our money. Let me tell you, it's the right thing for NDOT to do."
Teixeira suggested extending the five-cent gas tax through which the city is contributing $20 million to the freeway's construction for another year.
Ultimately, funding decisions and recommendations to the state transportation board will come from city supervisors, who are slated to hear the bike path issue April 20.
About 100 area residents attended the meeting, most agreeing that it was the state's job to pick up the cost of the path. All agreed the time to build the path was now and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Carson City.
"We are being told the price is too high to construct this facility," Carson resident Sue Newberry said. "I believe this is a matter of setting priorities. This path won't be built if not done now. This community has made an adequate financial commitment to the overall freeway cost. I urge you to stand firm and require NDOT to implement the plans that have been made and supported by this community."
One commission member pointed out the city "was on a collision course with NDOT's past traditions."
NDOT is facing a precedent-setting case with the proposed bike path.
"There is some fear of establishing a precedent," said Supervisor Jon Plank, who serves on both commissions. "But society is changing and there's no better place to start a precedent than Carson City."
NDOT Assistant Director Susan Martinovich said the state's policy "has been to put funding into roads and road features."
"There isn't enough money for roads and roadway features," she said. "NDOT is not against bike paths. Our priorities have always been on the pavement. There's an opportunity here to find a different way of thinking, but it's going to be a challenge. It could be a policy decision. Funding that has historically gone to roads will go to bike features. There's not a lot of money in the pot. If you use that money, some other project won't get done. It's hard to tell people in Clark County no to a project because of a bike path in the north. That $3 million could extend a left-turn pocket in a dangerous intersection. It could widen a stretch of road between Fallon and Fernley."
"The T in NDOT doesn't stand for automobiles only," parks commissioner Ken Elverum said. "It means transportation. That old way of thinking, 'cause Nevada's always done it that way' doesn't fly anymore. It's time to do it now."
The commissioners made it clear they were in support of the multi-use path, both approving NDOT's proposed layout of the path.
There has been some confusion about the placement of the path. It does not run level with the freeway. The freeway is elevated, at 30 feet above street levels in many points, and the path will lie at street level, and in many places on city streets. It will be about 30 feet wide and fenced with access available at intersections where it crosses streets.