NDOT can, should include bypass path | NevadaAppeal.com

NDOT can, should include bypass path

JACK SORENSEN, P.E., Washoe Valley

This letter is provided in response to the recent Nevada Appeal “Business View” article by Carson City Chamber of Commerce agent Larry Osborne regarding the bypass freeway paths.

As an active participant in many of the recent bypass meetings, I must note that several clearly inaccurate statements in the article could have easily misguided the chamber. It is encouraging to see the comments by Chamber President Steve Browne supporting the need for the multi-purpose path along the freeway corridor; however, it is clear that the chamber board based their reservations about related funding and scheduling on inadequate or outdated information.

As 6 p.m. this evening, NDOT will present the board with a plan detailed by their design consultants, and developed cooperatively with Carson City supervisors, Carson City staff and representatives of local advocacy groups. NDOT Director Stephens chose to seek this board review, even though he apparently has the authority to implement the path integrated design without review. The purpose of this presentation is for NDOT to seek affirmation of their first effort to integrate a path in an urban freeway design, in conformance with both the State Transportation Plan and the Carson City Transportation Plan.

Clark County recently set an example and most other progressive states regularly do so. Fortunately, NDOT’s presentation to the transportation board will be done in the context of the new clear and definitive supporting Federal Highway Administration policy directives. Let’s hope our transportation board members seize this opportunity to express their vision.

The Osborne statement, “… NDOT will not pay for the path …” and inferences that NDOT funding the path is inappropriate, are both inaccurate. Nearly half of NDOT’s primary funding is through the FHWA, which receives congressional funding based primarily on federal gas tax receipts. As expected, these federal dollars are granted conditional upon each state conforming with the associated congressional laws and regulations.

The most recent policy memorandum (Feb. 28, 2000), titled “Accommodating bicycle and pedestrian travel,” includes the following direct quotation “key principles: a policy statement that bicycling and walking facilities will be incorporated into all transportation projects unless exceptional circumstances exist” and “Excessively disproportionate costs are defined as exceeding 20 percent of the cost of the larger transportation project.” Clearly, the information upon which the chamber made their recommendation is grossly inaccurate.

Hopefully, NDOT will rapidly acknowledge these evolving multi-modal concepts and ensure that future rights-of-way acquisitions are adequate for the freeways, as well as the appurtenant paths, etc, and their budget allocations be full spectrum at the outset so that “catch-up” crisis such as the Carson City bypass path integration will never occur again. Their best opportunity to demonstrate this is on the SW quadrant of the Carson City bypass.

The recent rumor that NDOT has threatened delay of the second phase of the bypass if official support persists for multipurpose paths is totally unfounded, in my opinion.

We all owe our support to those courageous elected Carson City officials whose valor has kept the path and landscape concept a viable reality. Although their vote on the path issue was unanimous, the leadership corps has been supervisors Jon Plank and Robin Williamson out front in meetings and Mayor Masayko trouble-shooting in the background.

Let’s hear some strong informed support by the chamber and see their active participation in joining the community and NDOT involving this challenge together. And let’s hope the Nevada State Transportation Board will support NDOT on their “enlightened” path toward serving all the needs on our future urban freeways.

About the funding, consider that Nevada’s annual transportation construction budget is approximately $400 million (of which about 40 percent is FHA reimbursed monies), and that freeway cost estimates are often off by as much as 5-10 percent … and the current quadrant is estimated at about $120 million. NDOT shouldn’t have much problem coming up with the $3 million bucks. At a March 29 meeting, NDOT and FHWA officials agreed that NDOT has the authority to fully fund the path. NDOT also indicated that with a positive transportation board decision, no delays need occur. Carson City has already come up with $20 million from the gas tax. Come on, NDOT!