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Not enough streets, too many names

Barry Smith

Change the five names of a street in Carson City so people can follow it from one end of town to the other? Absurd! Impossible! It makes too darn much sense.

The idea comes from the map guy over at City Hall, who was looking at a map of Carson City one day – that being his job – and said, “Hey, look at this. If you start driving on East College Parkway and just keep going, eventually you’re on East Graves Lane, then Graves Lane, then North Edmonds Drive and, finally, Fairview. What a mess that makes of this map.”

I don’t really know if he said any of this. He might have just thought it. Anyway, Scott Royal brought it to the attention of the Carson City Planning Commission, who said “We’ll get back to you on that one.” Or something like that.

I think I know why the Planning Commission’s not in a big hurry to start changing the names of streets. Because once you start, it’s going to be hard to stop.

Back in 1996, one of the first columns I wrote for the Nevada Appeal contained this food for thought:

“Why does Emerson Street become Roop Street become Silver Sage? You don’t even have to change lanes, but the street signs tell you that you’re on a different street as you drive north to south,” I wrote.

“Does Carson City have a surplus of street names on stock somewhere and is trying to get rid of them by using three at a time?”

Well, there you go.

This was back when East Graves Lane was little more than a twinkle in the eye of the Regional Transportation Commission. Little did I know that Carson City was holding back when it used three names for one street. We had plans to use five names for one street.

Fortunately, we didn’t use up extra names in the stockpile. So we still have names waiting to be used.

Instead of consolidating street names, we should be trying to lighten the inventory. For example, although Williams Street already has two names (it’s also Highway 50, of course), it makes little sense to keep the name on the west side of Carson Street.

After all, a broad thoroughfare lined with businesses through east Carson City suddenly becomes a shady side street on the west side. Shouldn’t it have a different name? I think Masayko Way might be a possibility.

And everybody knows where King Street is on the west side of town. It runs all the way from the Attorney General’s Office up into the canyon (where, technically, it is Kings Canyon Road, I think.)

But what about the dinky little three-block King Street on the east side of the capitol? Does it deserve to have such a regal name? Shouldn’t it, at least be Queen Street, or maybe Prince Street?

Yes, now that I’ve been in Carson City awhile, I realize that having as many names as possible for the same street is one of those quirks that gives it character.

Want another one? Try starting on Hell’s Bells Road to Carson River Road to Pinon Hills Road to Laurel Road to S. Deer Run to N. Deer Run to Arrowhead, (which on the map is also called Mills Road). I don’t think that qualifies as a record, though, because of the little jog at Laurel Road, where Pinon Hills Road actually goes straight.

Any out-of-towner driving on Ormsby Boulevard will find himself on Ash Canyon Road in no time at all. If he turns onto Winnie Lane, he will eventually swing around to find himself … still on Winnie Lane. This seems like a perfect opportunity to add another street name somewhere along there.

One of my favorites is down in my neighborhood where Saliman Road runs all the way from Long Street to Koontz until, whoops, it becomes Hillview for a block. I can understand that one, though, because it’s true you can see a hill from there. Several, in fact.

Having a variety of street names contributes to local knowledge. In other words, you can spot a newcomer because they are generally unable to tell anyone how to get from Point A to Point B if the points aren’t along Carson Street.

It’s hard even to direct someone to Highway 50, because that means explaining something like this: “It’s not the Highway 50 that is east of Carson Street that takes you to Dayton, and it’s not the Highway 50 that is also Highway 395, which is also Carson Street through town until it gets to the south end of town where Highway 395 keeps going. It’s the Highway 50 that turns up the hill.”

“You mean the road to Lake Tahoe?”

“Yes, except we call it Spooner.”

I’ll tell you one thing. It sure is more interesting than the town I lived in previously, a perfect grid in which all the avenues run north and south and all the streets run east and west. And they are numbered. So locations are at the corner of 6th and 6th, for example. Or the intersection of 35th Avenue and 3rd Street.

Sure, it’s easy to find your way around – unless you misunderstand and drive to 35th Street and 3rd Avenue, which puts you on the completely opposite end of town.

It makes perfect sense and was designed, no doubt, by a mapmaker.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.