07 Jan December 2018 Project Update
The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County and contractor Sierra Nevada Construction (SNC) are a little over halfway done with the first part of construction to upgrade and move utilities underground.
Approximately 40 stakeholders attended the RTC Transforming Virginia Street business meeting on December 6 at The Saint. For those who were unable to attend, this update contains the information that the project team and stakeholders discussed at the meeting.
Right now, the first part of construction, which focuses on underground utility relocation in the Midtown area, is halfway complete. To keep things moving along on schedule, we currently have six different crews working on various areas of Virginia Street. This has helped us fast track progress on this corridor and lessen the length of time for this part of construction.
We are currently on schedule to complete this part of the construction in March of 2019. When we are done, utility companies will come through the corridor and connect their utilities from March through May 2019. At this time, the corridor will reopen to two-way traffic before the next part of the construction begins in summer of 2019.
The RTC will host a business meeting in late February/early March to discuss the activities that will take place during the next part of construction. We encourage everyone to attend this meeting to learn what the construction impacts will be, the traffic control plan to be implemented, and how to receive up-to-date information about the transformation of Virginia Street during the next approximately 22 months of construction.
The project team briefly discussed information pertaining to the improvements in the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) area. Construction work within the UNR area is planned to begin after the second part of Midtown construction is underway. Additionally, we are planning to do the majority of work in this area during the summer to minimize impacts to students.
Could Virginia Street Remain One-Way Southbound After Construction?
We have received some questions about the potential of keeping Virginia Street one-way and preserving angled parking in some sections. As you are aware, the development and design of the project spanned several years and included extensive community input. The final design, completed through community consensus, was submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and was approved in June 2018. Federal funding for the project was based on the approved design the RTC submitted to the FTA and construction, based on the approved design, was initiated on September 4, 2018. Changing designs and construction plans at this juncture would create significant impacts to the completion of the project, including increased financial costs, project delays, and additional NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) and environmental analysis. We are too far along in the design and construction process to make major changes and at this time, the infrastructure is in place to facilitate future two-way traffic only as envisioned in the final design.
Furthermore, making changes at this point would create a number of issues that would directly impact taxpayers, along with business owners and residents . For example, changes would mean that current underground utility work would have to stop immediately and that the entire project would have to be shut down and redesigned. The redesign would add an estimated three years to the project lifespan because the project would need to go back through an extensive federal environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. These issues could jeopardize our current federal funding for the project and re-scoping the project would add millions of dollars in new costs to taxpayers. A one-way couplet would also create issues for safety and operational movements (backing out into live traffic) as well as challenges to the existing transit service, the RAPID Virginia Line and Route 1, the region’s most heavily used transit service. In addition, the added time would have an additional impact on business owners which the RTC and SNC have been working diligently to mitigate through efficient traffic control, a strong community outreach program, and a robust business support program.
The temporary parking spots installed to mitigate the impacts during construction have provided additional access to businesses in Midtown. But the risks to change the project design at this time are too significant and severe to be implemented. When construction is completed, the RTC, working with the City of Reno and the business stakeholders, will take a look at the parking management and supply issues to develop possible solutions beyond what has already been considered as part of this project. This may include satellite or managed parking areas within the Midtown District.
The RTC and SNC, in partnership with the community, are all committed to creating a more vibrant, accessible and safer Midtown District and the approved design will accomplish this.
The work you’ve been seeing out on Virginia Street has been mostly underground. That will change when we start the next part of construction in summer of 2019. After the utility work by the utility companies is done, a new traffic control plan will be back in place. While the traffic control plans are still under review, one-way traffic will be required within the work zone when construction begins again this summer.
At this time, the preliminary work plan includes beginning construction at Plumb Lane and working north. Crews will also work on side streets throughout the corridor. Construction operations will occur on one side of Virginia Street (east or west) and then switch. The construction schedule will be similar to the first part of the project, with brief construction breaks at the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s holidays.
During this next part of construction, you’ll start to see the changes in the video above start to come to life, with new, wider sidewalks, landscaping, new lighting and major safety improvements. We will have multiple crews working at the same time, just like in the first part of the project, to help speed things along and impact businesses for as little time as possible. This part of the construction is expected to wrap up in 2020.
We will continue to communicate extensively with businesses regarding construction operations and to maintain access. Work in front of businesses, such as concrete grading and pouring, will be coordinated with each business.
There are some major improvements coming to this corridor and we appreciate everyone’s patience during the construction process.
We’ve had a lot of success attracting people to Midtown during construction with our business-patronage program and we continue to appreciate and enjoy everyone’s participation. The project team will continue to support Midtown businesses with a robust outreach and business-patronage program, including special events.
We’re currently running the 12 Merry Days of Midtown promotion, where we’re encouraging everyone to share how much fun they’re having in Midtown on social media using the hashtag #VirginiaStreetProject. People who post using that hashtag on days during the promotion are eligible to receive a $25 gift card to a theme-of-the-day Midtown business of their choice. People who post with that hashtag are also eligible to receive $1,000 in Midtown gift cards at our holiday party at Craft Wine & Beer on Friday, December 21.
Our project team has hosted other events throughout construction, including monthly Midtown construction lunches, the Tastes & Treats of South Virginia Plaza, the Midtown Block Party and more!
We have more exciting events and promotions coming up! If you’d like to get involved or your business needs support, please reach out to our team. We are here to help you through this process. You can email us at info@VirginiaStreetProject.com or call us at 775-300-1848.
Thank you for participating in this process and we will continue to keep you updated on our progress. We will host another stakeholder meeting prior to the next part of construction.
Project information is also available on our website VirginiaStreetProject.com.
Please share this information with your Midtown neighbors and encourage people to sign up for project updates on our website, or text VIRGINIA to 797979 for project updates. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.