A few dozen citizens attended the first community open house for the Sparks Boulevard corridor study at Reed High School, where local residents helped point out some adjustments that could be made to one of Sparks’ major streets. With the goal of making multi-modal (pedestrians, bicycles, public transit and motorists) improvements on Sparks Boulevard, residents were encouraged Thursday to pinpoint and write down suggestions and concerns on a giant map spread in the middle of the room.
“Public input is critical,” said Debra Goodwin, RTC senior planner and project manager for the Sparks Boulevard corridor study. “They are the people who are out there on these roads. One gentleman was talking about an intersection that was a problem for him and it could be something as simple as extending the turn lane just a little bit.
“Sparks (Boulevard) is a good road. It is fairly new and it carries traffic well. It may be that we need to do some intersection improvements and that would be the next step.”
The large map was littered with red and blue suggestions scribbled in various sections of the corridor, many of which were simple fixes or non-existing concerns, according to Goodwin. She said many residents, including herself, will use the road daily but do not think to look for flaws or potential design solutions to tell the RTC about.
“I drive the road every day and I had no clue that the bike path that goes down the middle doesn’t connect real well,” she said. “Those are the kinds of things we want to be able to address and we need the public to weigh in on these issues so we know exactly what we should be looking at.”
The corridor study will allow the RTC to locate any concerns along Sparks Boulevard and address them "when funding becomes available," according to Goodwin.
Goodwin said the Sparks Boulevard corridor study was prompted by the current construction progress of the SouthEast Connector, which began at the southernmost end of Sparks Boulevard in February of 2013. The new 5.5-mile roadway will connect Sparks Boulevard, at the intersection with Greg Street, to south Reno at South Meadows and Veterans parkways, linking a rapid-growing business area with the dense Sparks industrial area. The road also addresses a growing amount of congestion on I-80 and US 395.
The Sparks Boulevard corridor study will also be affected by the Pyramid Highway/US 395 Connector, which is scheduled to have its final Environmental Impact Statement this fall, that will relieve traffic congestion on Pyramid Highway and provide improved community connectivity east to west from Pyramid Highway to U.S. 395 and east to Vista Boulevard. Although the road is part of the RTC’s 2035 Regional Plan, Goodwin said it will eventually bring more transit trips to Sparks Boulevard and it is better to address any existing problems now rather than later.
Goodwin received several comments within the first hour of the open house pertaining to Sparks Boulevard and its surrounding roadways. One Sparks resident, Larry Kitchen, said sound walls were necessary south of the intersection of Sparks and Baring boulevards. Another resident pointed out a few sidewalk disconnections that could be improved for folks walking and crossing the streets, and he added that any attempt to put bus turnouts in a section of Willow Crest subdivision would cause hazard to residents.
“Those small improvements are the kind of information we are looking for. We will take anything,” Goodwin said. “Another reason we need these corridor studies is because in the past we were really focused on the roads. It is a good thing to take it and to broaden it to pedestrians, bicyclists and everybody because everyone deserves to keep safe.”
Members of the public can stop in to meet the RTC project team to discuss ideas or concerns anytime at its planning department at 1105 Terminal Way, Suite 211 in Reno. Comments can also be submitted online at www.rtcwashoe.com.