The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) and city of Sparks on Monday debuted renovations that allow cyclists and pedestrians to travel along Victorian Avenue from Victorian Square to McCarran Boulevard.
The project started as an RTC roadway rehabilitation project with bus stop improvements, but “evolved to include neighborhood improvements that increase economic development and access to shopping and business within the important Sparks corridor,” an RTC press release states.
The $4.4 million project, which was started in September 2009 and completed in May, includes the installation of 10-foot sidewalks, 10-foot bike lanes, decorative street lighting, sidewalk and island landscaping, street parking, one westbound land and two eastbound lanes.
The city of Sparks contributed $470,000 to the project, with the remainder of funds coming from money generated by a state fuel tax, project manager Warren Call said.
The new bike and pedestrian path runs along the north side of Victorian Avenue from Pyramid Way to Nichols Boulevard, stopping just short of McCarran Boulevard. Sparks Councilwoman Julia Ratti said the next phase will be to take the bike path down Nichols, across McCarran and into Sparks Marina Park. That project has not been scheduled, she said, but will get underway when funding becomes available.
Rob Bidart, a TRC Engineers employee who served as a consultant to RTC on the project, said Victorian Avenue was previously a four-lane road, but a “geometric reconfiguration” was done to bring the road down to three lanes.
“We were able to maintain access to all the businesses and provide on-street parking,” Bidart said.
“What’s so cool about it is that it accomplishes so many things,” Ratti said. “It improved the look of the neighborhood and serves all types of transportation users as well as the businesses.”
Ratti said she lives near the area where the improvements were made, and her neighbors have told her they are excited to have the neighborhood “dressed up a bit.”
“It’s all about neighborhood pride,” Ratti said. “Truly everybody wins.”
RTC executive director Lee Gibson voiced “deep appreciation” to everyone who worked on the project and to the city of Sparks for partnering with RTC to work more efficiently.
“Partnerships are the name of the game,” Gibson said.
Felicia Archer, spokeswoman for the RTC, said the city of Sparks and RTC formed the partnership in order to save money and work more efficiently.
“We saved money by doing this together,” said Ron Smith, RTC vice chairman and a Sparks city councilman.
Business owners and employees along Victorian Avenue expressed positive sentiments regarding the beautification and bike/walking path project.
When asked if construction of a bike path has had a negative effect on business or parking, Anna Payne of All-American Driving School, located at 508 Victorian Ave., said, “It hasn’t bothered me.”
“I think it is actually nicer out front,” Payne said. “I think a lot of people actually use the bike path.”
Payne did voice concern about drivers pulling into the bike path instead of stopping at stop signs, as did Clayton Scudder of Scudder’s Performance, located at 630 Victorian Ave.
“People pull up into the bike path and then stop,” Payne said. “That could be dangerous.”
“People (motorists) don’t realize the bike path is there,” Scudder said. “Bicyclists don’t slow down because they don’t see the yield signs.
“Maybe it could have been designed a little better or have better signs,” Scudder added.
Ratti said she believes motorists will become more aware they need to stop before entering the bike path once more cyclists and pedestrians begin to use it.
“I think it just needs to have more traffic,” Ratti said.
Mayor Geno Martini said he is looking forward to doing more projects like this within the city.
“It has everything you could ask for in a street,” Martini said. “It has really spruced up the city of Sparks, especially on Victorian Avenue.”