Carson Perspective: Walkability as economic tool? Or pedestrian-friendly desperation?

Changing Carson Street downtown, which is aimed at luring pedestrians, stems from hopes that walkability will spur growth.The Carson City Board of Supervisors, which directed city staff to solidify plans, could eventually decide against proceeding with the plan as Supervisor John McKenna stressed at week’s end.A scaled-down plan to go to two lanes of traffic by re-striping street paint, speeding up micro-paving maintenance, tearing down wrought iron sidewalk fencing and allowing parallel parking isn’t the $12 million face-lift conceived earlier. Whether less is more, only time will tell.As luck would have it, an article from the Atlantic Cities, an urban design site, focused at week’s end on similar moves earlier in Lancaster, Calif. The article from an advocate praised the moves there. “A terrific street redesign is assisting economic development,” claimed the piece by Kaid Benfield, co-founder of SmartGrowth America. Though Benfield said pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, awnings, arcades, outdoor dining, single-travel lanes, trees, and public art have helped, he also said unemployment there still was more than 15 percent last August. Benfield’s advocacy, however, claimed the changes enhanced shopping and added businesses while boosting downtown property values.In Carson City, questions remain whether Carson Street changes will come yet this year.City Engineer Jeff Sharp said seeking $150,000 in anticipated costs from the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), refining the plans and returning to supervisors could take until springtime. And an altered makeup on the Board of Supervisors also may alter dynamics. The RTC meets this mid-week after the Carson Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO). The RTC and CAMPO have the same members. CAMPO’s session starts at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Sierra Room at the Community Center, the RTC right after. The RTC January agenda, however, already was set and seeking funds will await a later meeting. Also in city government this week, Mayor Robert Crowell is sworn in for a second term Monday. Supervisors-elect Brad Bonkowski and Jim Shirk also are sworn in for new terms in 11 a.m. ceremonies Monday at the First Judicial District Courtroom, 885 E. Musser St.This week also includes a meeting of the city’s Historic Resources Commission at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Community Center Sierra Room. •John Barrette covers Carson City government. He can be reached at


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