Carson St. plan stirs emotions |

Carson St. plan stirs emotions

John Barrette

Questions galore greeted city officials at a workshop on a downtown Carson Street traffic plan aimed at promoting pedestrians, many of them from people who then shifted to opposing comments.

Despite that one in the audience filling the Carson City Community Center’s Sierra Room asked questions, then supported the idea, and another advocate of the changes gave an impassioned speech on the proposal’s behalf.

Carson City’s Public Works Department put on the workshop and sought comments, both verbal and written, to help the Board of Supervisors with their eventual deliberations on the proposal to narrow Carson Street traffic from four to two lanes, remove protective sidewalk fencing and allow parallel parking. The plan would produce 85 spaces at 27-feet each.

Parallel parking was questioned as a bottleneck by several, including Star Anderson of the Carson Nugget, who admitted she isn’t good at it. Others asked why now.

“Why not delay this until the freeway is done?” Dennis Moltz asked.

“We could,” replied Transportation Manager Patrick Pittenger.

The proposal was originally was part of a 2006 downtown plan that included not only two-lane traffic and street parking, but also a $10 million or more facelift. It was projected to be done after the bypass freeway was completed, but the intervening recession delayed the bypass and ideas of infusing $10 million into the downtown went out the window.

Among those favoring the proposal were Mark Beauchamp, who said he is a builder, and Doreen Mack, who has been spearheading efforts to return Carson City’s downtown to the pedestrian-friendly place it was when she grew up here in the 1960s and ’70s.

“I find it very desirable,” said Beauchamp.

Mack, in an emotion-charged talk, said four-lane traffic, medians and the fences hurt downtown businesses over the years.

“Slowly, one by one, they went out of business,” she said. She said the idea isn’t about the public, it’s about downtown businesses.

Many others, however, were skeptical at best or outright opponents.

“If this is something the businesses want to do, why aren’t they paying for it?” Carol Howell asked. The question went unanswered.

Bob Lamkin of Bob’s Shell Service, 705 N. Carson St., came armed with data, not questions, saying nine gas stations that would likely be affected by decreased traffic pay $150,000 in sales taxes annually and they don’t want to see Carson Street traffic further decreased.

Traffic dropped from 39,000 cars daily in 2002 to about 29,000 in 2009 and 19,000 last year, according to Public Works, in part because of the bypass and traffic on alternate city arterials east of Carson Street. Pittenger said studies indicate traffic will continue decreasing with or without the change now.