Bumpy road

Construction of the $30 million, federally funded boulevard is the final phase in the state Department of Transportation’s Interstate 40 Crosstown realignment. On completion of the project in 2014, ownership will be transferred to the city.

In response to concerns about the planned elevation, ODOT last summer enlisted a consultant firm, Stantec, to look at options for the boulevard, particularly regarding the complex traffic flow around Reno, Classen Boulevard and Western.

Nearly 40 proposals emerged, including a few featuring the option favored by Friends for a Better Boulevard: a traffic roundabout.

At a Dec. 2 public meeting, Stantec revealed four designs that had made the cut:
—an elevated section taking the boulevard over Western,
—an elevated section taking Western over the boulevard,
—a large intersection with traffic lights, and
—a three-lane roundabout.

Stantec recommended the first option.

Friends for a Better Boulevard assailed the process, saying the city and ODOT restricted Stantec to options that would make the boulevard a throughway or bypass for crosstown.

“Federal law requires that all reasonable alternatives be evaluated and that no action be taken that would limit the choice of those alternatives,” said Bob Kemper, the group’s chairman. “Unfortunately, it appears the city has done just that.”

David Dickerson, spokesman for the group, said its members have been told by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that there is no requirement for the boulevard to function as a bypass.

Moreover, he said, that supposed requirement prevented Stantec from recommending a “no build” option in which the original street grid would be restored and there essentially would be no boulevard between Classen and Walker.

But city Public Works Director Eric Wenger said not building a boulevard — or leaving portions of it out — is not an option. He cited both the FHWA’s 2002 record of decision and the city’s agreement with ODOT as evidence the boulevard must serve as a bypass.

“Unfortunately, I think there are documents that exist that have been misinterpreted,” Wenger said. “When you look at the two documents together, the boulevard is required.”

Wenger said it’s crucial the boulevard provide access to and from downtown because currently there is a limited number of exit and entry ways to the crosstown. The result, he said, has been rush-hour congestion at Western and E.K. Gaylord avenues.

The issue is expected to be brought before City Council for a vote on Jan. 8.

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Clifton Adcock

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