By Kayla Anderson
On August 3, the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County will begin intermittently closing lanes on Sparks Boulevard between Greg and Baring boulevards so that construction crews can start doing exploratory work under the existing roadway, to prepare for a larger roadway-widening project to accommodate commuters long term. Construction will take place at nighttime between 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. and will last approximately two months.
The exploratory work includes onsite soil and pavement sampling as well as topography surveying.
This closure represents the larger Sparks Boulevard Project that was first brought to light five years ago.
“RTC began studying the whole Sparks Boulevard Project including the entire quarter from Greg Street to Pyramid since 2015,” says RTC Engineering Manager Dale Keller, further explaining that they began analyzing this stretch of road to coincide with the SouthEast Connector (also known as Veterans Parkway) being built.
After collecting community input, the RTC identified a wide range of improvements that could be made on Sparks Boulevard and is seeing a traffic increase more than what was originally predicted. The three main components of improving Sparks Boulevard are thus to: maintain roadway capacity; improve safety; and to enhance the bicycle and shared use path.
“With the new connection of Veterans Parkway to Sparks Boulevard at Greg Street, significant traffic growth has occurred between Greg Street and I-80, which is impacting traffic. Although this growth was anticipated and it aligns with future traffic models, traffic at the Sparks Boulevard and Greg Street intersection has doubled during peak travel times after the opening of the SouthEast Connector project,” Keller says.
This will be the first big step in the project (in Sparks) since opening the SouthEast Connector. On Sparks Boulevard from Greg to Baring the RTC is looking at widening the roadway from four lanes to six lanes. Currently most of the traffic congestion happens in the afternoons with large trucks traveling to and from Greg Street and the I-80 interchange, so this should help improve traffic flow.
“This (Sparks Boulevard Project) complements the investment in Veterans and the shared bike path,” Keller says about the 5.5 mile stretch of road that runs from South Reno to Sparks.
The schedule for the Sparks Boulevard Project starts with the nighttime lane closures starting August 3 to study the soil and identify potential materials to use for the new roadway; the environmental process is expected to last through spring of 2021 and the RTC will continue to seek public input.
“The design and construction (of the Sparks Boulevard Project) is likely a couple years out,” Keller says.
“This project has something for all users. It crates a smoother way to get on and off I-80 and provides easier access to Legends. For residents, this is a great investment of having a more walkable and bikeable community,” adds Keller, emphasizing that this will also create a safer way for students to get to and from Reed High School.
“Our goal is to provide safe roadways and create a path for all users and I think this project offers something for everyone,” Keller says.