Tahoe Chamber CEO column: Visit to downtown Carson City debunks rumors spread by anti ‘Loop Road’ crowd (opinion)
Twenty-eight business and community leaders participated in our recent Tahoe Chamber TREK to downtown Carson City.
The TREK provided an opportunity to see first-hand how the downtown district was transformed from a U.S. highway corridor congested with vehicles traveling north and south to one much more conducive to pedestrians, cyclists, shopping, dining and enjoying the history and attractions of Nevada’s state Capitol.
Rumors being spread by critics of the U.S. 50 Community Revitalization Project (aka the Loop Road), who claim that downtown Carson City is now “deader than a doornail” thanks to the relocated highway, were easily debunked by actually visiting the project site. The view that downtown Carson City is suffering is not consistent with what we observed.
Here are some of the facts about the revitalization of downtown Carson City:
Before the project, Carson City sales tax revenues were increasing faster outside of downtown. Since project completion, that trend is reversed.
Trucks and other vehicles whose destination was never downtown have the route they really want — Interstate 580/U.S. 395. Those heading to enjoy and spend money downtown now have a true community destination to celebrate.
The combination of reduced lanes and slower traffic downtown invites more attention to businesses and other attractions along the way. Pedestrian and bicycle activity have increased and overall safety in the area is much improved.
Wayfinding signs in the district are more visible and effective, tailored to the slower speed of travel and mobility.
Carson Street is now a local road. This has improved local control and flexibility. For example, city officials no longer need permission from the federal government to temporarily close sections of the road for special events.
Live music and the arts are beginning to flourish in the district.
Private sector investment has been stimulated. There are new buildings downtown and a number of older buildings, some closed for years, are being restored and repurposed.
For many years, downtown Carson City was overlooked and underutilized. It was constrained because a five-lane highway, U.S. 395, ran straight through its core. But with the coming of I-580, non-Carson City bound traffic decreased (they travel on I-580) and the number of intentioned visitors increased.
Locals and visitors alike began frequenting the downtown district to shop, eat, and enjoy themselves. With the U.S. 50 Community Revitalization Project, the South Shore has a similar opportunity to create a destination that can be celebrated by locals and visitors, provide new stimulus for local businesses, and create a safer downtown corridor.
Opponents of the U.S. 50 project are fearful of change. They devise arguments to justify their opposition by relying on hearsay and outright misinformation. They don’t look at the facts or learn from the first-hand experiences of other communities with similar challenges.
Tahoe Chamber does not fear change, particularly when we know it will benefit our businesses and the broader community for years to come. We have taken a proactive approach to learn about the range of exciting opportunities the U.S. 50 project can deliver.
The TREK to Carson City has only strengthened our resolve to help create a more vibrant downtown by removing U.S. 50 from the core so our businesses and community can flourish.
Steve Teshara is the CEO of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce.