DOT tries to think "beyond pavement"

The Nevada Department of Transportation is trying to think "off the pavement."

The transition isn't easy, though, said NDOT Assistant Director Susan Martinovich.

"We're in the business of building roads," she said. "Across the country there is a swing in the pendulum to recognize things beyond the pavement. It's new to us, but we're trying to do it."

Beyond the pavement are paths for bicycles and pedestrians. A bike path to accompany the Carson City freeway kicked up controversy with Carson City residents when NDOT officials decided the cost of the path was too high to include in the freeway's construction.

At a meeting with city supervisors Thursday, Martinovich told supervisors NDOT was ready to work with city staff and path proponents to reduce the estimated $7.5 million cost of the bike path.

Martinovich cited a brief history of the freeway, noting that estimated costs in 1996 were $56 million for construction and $20 million for right-of-way costs. Today's estimate has grown to $105 million, which includes extra costs such as drainage that wasn't as important in 1996.

Those costs and stringent national standards make the bike path a project the department doesn't feel it can afford, she said.

Martinovich said, however, the department is committed to working with the city on its bike plan and asked that the bike path project be engineered with NDOT staff to come up with an estimate everyone can agree on.

"We feel we are working with you on these issues," she said. "There may be a delay to the (freeway) schedule, I'll just throw that out there. If the proposal is not approved by the state transportation board, we can continue the process to remove it from our plan.

"I know you've heard it a lot of times, Nevada is (one of) the fastest growing states and we have a lot of competing needs statewide. We've defended this project against other needs in Washoe and Clark counties.

"Funding is an issue. There isn't enough money to meet all needs statewide at the same time. Any projects that have included bike paths have been funded by a combination of federal enchantment and local funds."

Mayor Ray Masayko said "delay" wasn't a word Carson City wanted to hear for the freeway.

"We're going to build the freeway once and (building the bike path now) is the only cost-effective way to make this happen," Masayko said. "We want to work with you and we want to give these folks an opportunity to achieve their objectives without delaying the project.

"If we put our shoulders to the task, we can work towards a solution."

Community groups like Muscle Powered and Gardeners Reclaiming Our Waysides want to see a multi-use path and linear park skirting the freeway which would allow pedestrians and bicyclists a north-south route through Carson City.

Martinovich said NDOT was willing to return to workshop with the groups and city staff to iron out the details of a bike path and freeway landscaping.

An October workshop laid much of the groundwork for the new design, which will pull the path from directly along the freeway's edge and nudge it into city streets in some places.

"GROW and Muscle Powered have been working with anybody we could think of to try and talk about this project," said Anne Macquarie, president of Muscle Powered. "We're so please to hear Susan Martinovich say NDOT will collaborate now."

Pedestrian advocate Sue Newberry said the decision by the city and NDOT to work together was "thrilling."

"This is a demonstration by Carson City and NDOT in response to what citizens want, and it shows that government is ready to be responsive and responsible," she said.

GROW President Mary Fischer also was pleased with the meeting's results.

"The progress made in the last few meetings is amazing," she said. "I'm certain we can accomplish this. We will have a linear park."


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