Paths and landscaping advocates looking for freeway support

Plans for a multi-use path and landscaping skirting the Carson City freeway are moving forward.

A public meeting is planned for late March to bring an alternative bike path plan to the public.

Representatives from Carson City and the Nevada Department of Transportation met with path proponents on Friday to begin the planning promised in a recent city meeting.

"There's a long way to go, and it's not a done deal," said Mary Fischer, president of Gardeners Reclaiming Our Waysides. "But at least we're at a point where we're talking instead of everyone saying no."

A bike path to accompany the Carson City freeway kicked up controversy with city residents when NDOT officials decided the cost of the path was too high to include in the freeway's construction.

The cost of the path was estimated at $7.5 million, but NDOT officials say they are committed to lowering the price tag.

"I think everyone agreed we need to bring down the cost," NDOT spokesman Scott Magruder said. "We're not saying this will be included in Phase 1B. We need a freeway, and we don't want to delay this next phase. The cost for the path is still almost $1 million a mile, so we're trying to get a really good cost and see if this is a realistic figure that can be funded. We're looking to the city for some funding."

Magruder said the estimate has been knocked down to $3.12 million and could drop further as city and state engineers scrutinize the path's design. By the end of March, he said, residents could review the plan and by the end of April or beginning of May, the state transportation board could decide whether or not to add the path to the construction of Phase 1B.

City Supervisor Robin Williamson has collected about 135 postcards generated by local cycling group Muscle Powered supporting the path's addition to the freeway. The cards and about 150 petition signatures collected by Muscle Powered will be presented to Gov. Kenny Guinn, who chairs the state's transportation board, sometime next week.

"It's encouraging that there are Carson City residents overwhelmingly saying we want this included in the freeway," Williamson said. "Hopefully the transportation board will look kindly on this."

Muscle Powered President Anne Macquarie said the meeting was encouraging, but who would pay for the path still wasn't discussed.

"It's good that not only did $5 million potentially get saved in coming up with a lower cost estimate, but now they're looking at something that is realistically doable," Macquarie said. "It's not 'if we can do this,' but 'how are we going to do this.' But it's still a question of money, and I'm sure they'll get to it as it moves forward into design."

Community groups like Muscle Powered and GROW 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.

An October workshop laid much of the groundwork for the new design gathering consensus as the preferred plan. The design would pull the path from directly along the freeway's edge, and nudge it into city streets in some places, eliminate costly retaining walls, lighting and passage under the freeway.

A price tag for landscaping has yet to be included, but Fischer said she is confident everything will come together.

"Landscaping and the path are two elements, but it will all be put together," Fischer said. "I'm beginning to feel extremely positive. The push is to have everyone concur before it goes to the state transportation board."


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