I’ve been lax about talking about it, but there have been big things happening in south Carson this summer. Major roadwork has been happening along Carson Street, stretching all the way from Clearview Street in the south to Fifth Street downtown. This is the Carson Street “Complete Streets” project that has been in the planning stages for many years. A few years ago Carson Street got a makeover through downtown after the freeway was rerouted. The work happening this year is part two of that project. With traffic levels way down because of the freeway, and crumbling pavement from many years of heavy use by large trucks and other vehicles, that segment of Carson Street was beyond ready for a makeover. They could have just repaved it and left it otherwise alone. Their plan instead was to reduce the number of lanes, since three lanes in each direction were no longer needed due to the lack of freeway traffic. With the remaining space they planned to put in a wide biking and walking path. And the centerpiece of the project would be a roundabout at Stewart Street, serving as a gateway to downtown. Construction on all of these projects has been going on for months. Let’s see where they are now.
The roundabout is where people will notice the biggest change, so let’s start there. The intersection of Carson and Stewart streets was, for decades, just a basic three-way stoplight. Now it is being reshaped into a roundabout, serving as an entrance to downtown Carson City. The roundabout itself has been finished, and the northbound lane is paved and open to traffic. Cones block off half of the roundabout though, since the southbound lanes still need work. So this is a one-way roundabout that you can’t go around, for now.
The approach to the roundabout has one lane going forward, and one lane for bypassing the roundabout and going to Stewart.
Southbound lanes are still under construction.
New sidewalks and biking paths, and room for landscaping are also part of the project.
The crosswalks and medians are set up so that pedestrians only have to deal with one direction of traffic at a time.
The sidewalk continues to the south as the multi-purpose trail that is part of the rest of the project.
This biking and walking trail continues all the way to Clearview Lane. We’ll see more of it later.
A new sign on Stewart announces the roundabout ahead.
The two lanes of Stewart are painted with turn directions.
Heading north from Stewart, the roadway has been narrowed and the sidewalk has more room to breathe, with a large landscaping buffer against traffic.
Here at 10th Street, the sidewalk on the east side of the road becomes more like the new sidewalks downtown, complete with on-street parking on some blocks.
Final paving has been taking place between Stewart and Fifth, after months of the road being torn up with traffic cones everywhere.
On the west side of the street, the sidewalk is remaining the same width. But it has been replaced in several areas where the concrete was old and damaged.
Let’s jump down to Clearview Street now, at the south end of the project. The sidewalks here have been replaced with a multipurpose trail. This wide path has plenty of room for bicycles and walkers to travel side by side.
The wider sidewalk means less room for cars, so the road has been narrowed to two lanes in each direction. This is how Carson Street was until about 20 years ago, when the third lane was added because traffic on 395 and 50 was increasing. Now all that traffic uses the freeway, and the street is only for people travelling around town.
The new path follows the road all the way.
You can see remnants of the old curb and sidewalk still remaining in some places. The new addition also has plenty of room for landscaping, to give this path more of a park-like feel.
With the narrowing of the road has come a reduction in the speed limit too. The limit has dropped along here from 45 to 35. I feel like this could still be a 45 mile per hour road, even with only 4 lanes. I don’t see the need to lower the speed limit.
Despite the roadway looking finished, there is still work to do on the path. That work can continue into the fall even after the road opens fully.
Most of the road south of Fairview is fully paved and striped now. Paving continues north of Fairview, and the street is only one way here during this phase of construction.
Overall, the new street looks great. A repaving job was desperately needed along here, but I can see why they waited until after the freeway was finished. This project also marks the first work that Carson City has done on this section of the street. Previously, south Carson Street was under the control of NDoT because it carried US Highways 395 and 50. With those routes redirected to the freeway, the state turned the road over to the city’s control, and also gave them a chunk of cash to be used on this repaving project. I think the reduction from 6 lanes to 4 will work out okay. I haven’t driven that street at rush hour lately, but there has to be much less traffic on it now compared to five years ago when the freeway wasn’t finished. I’m not sure about the reduced speed limit, though. A 4 lane road with limited side streets and driveways could easily have stayed 45 MPH, so I don’t know what the thinking was there.
The most controversial part of the project has been the roundabout. Some people hate it and think it’s a waste of time and money, and will make traffic much worse and the accident rate go up. I’m looking forward to the roundabout. It should make traffic flow smoother than the stop and go of having a traffic light. Fewer stoplights can only be a good thing. I’ve been stuck at this red light in all three directions, and I won’t miss it. I’d like to see more roundabouts around town at certain intersections, and maybe this is the first step towards that.
We’ll keep an eye on the progress as they finish up this project. It’s supposed to be done by the end of October, though it looks to me like the multipurpose path might need more time than that.