By Jessica Carner
RENO — A study currently is underway that could lead to drastic changes in the way the Fourth Street and Prater Way corridor through Reno and Sparks looks and is utilized.
The Regional Transportation Commission is midway through a one-year study to identify issues and solutions in the areas of economic development and multimodal transportation along Fourth Street and Prater Way from Keystone Avenue in Reno to Northern Nevada Medical Center on the east side of Sparks. Also included in the overall study are the areas between Interstate 80 and the Truckee River in Reno and the two blocks north of Prater Way to I-80 in Sparks.
“We are looking at transportation improvements for all modes,” said Christina Leach, assistant transit planner for the RTC.
Leach on Thursday said the RTC is working with the cities of Reno and Sparks to coordinate economic development plans.
According to an RTC fact sheet, the project team has completed a walking audit of Fourth Street, Prater and Lincoln ways and Victorian Avenue. The team also has conducted driving audits and interviews with city planners to develop future land-use scenarios and for use in testing transportation alternatives.
RTC spokesperson Felicia Archer said the goal is to make Fourth Street, which turns into Prater Way in Sparks, a “complete street.” A complete street includes wider sidewalks, bike lanes, special bus lanes, comfortable and accessible transit stops, frequent street crossing opportunities, median islands and accessible pedestrian signals.
“(One) thing that really matters is making sure people can travel smoothly from point A to point B,” Archer said Thursday morning.
“We have a great north-south connection in Virginia Street,” Leach said. “Now we need an east-west connection.”
The RTC on Sept. 15 held a community workshop at Robert Mitchell Elementary School to gather input from members of the public.
About 30 people attended the first in what is set to be a series of open houses, and were asked to identify the most important overall corridor goals. Twenty-seven out of 30 said safer streets should be the top priority. Attendees also said connectivity, corridor identity and historical significance and the arts should be taken into consideration when redeveloping the corridor.
Leach said a group of business owners in the Fourth Street area, called E4, already has begun making a concentrated effort to get people back into the area that once was bustling before the interstate rolled through town.
“Fourth Street used to be the Lincoln Highway,” Archer said. “Before I-80, it was the main east-west connection across the United States. It actually has kind of a cult following.”
E4 presented events in the Fourth Street corridor a couple of times per month throughout the summer in an effort to transform the area into the city’s new art entertainment corridor, and in October will hold a pre-Halloween costume party that will take place at various locations along the street.
The RTC also has collaborated with the University of Nevada, Reno on the study. Last semester, a group of UNR geography students completed an adaptive reuse project in which they inventoried old buildings to figure out new ways to use them.
Additionally, Alicia Barber, UNR oral history program director, has been interviewing people along the Fourth/Prater corridor to find out what the public wants to see happen in the area.
A number of ideas for redevelopment have been tossed around, such as adding artists’ lofts and new restaurants to the equation. There also has been talk of more frequent transit stops and changes in routing.
“We want to make it more vibrant,” Leach said.
Nothing is set in stone yet. Leach said the RTC wants as many ideas from community members as it can get, and people can submit their ideas via a study website, www.4thprater.com.
“This study will end in May of next year,” Leach said.
Funding for projects along the corridor will depend on what the community decides to do, she said.
“The study will be helpful (in getting funding for projects) because we will have projects ready to go,” she added.