Coalition focuses on transportation issues | SierraSun.com

Coalition focuses on transportation issues

Bill O’Driscoll
wodriscoll@nnbw.biz

Interstate 80 in Reno, looking east toward the Spaghetti Bowl interchange.

Northern Nevada's commercial development interests are getting proactive about transportation issues that can impact their work.

The result is the Transportation Planning Coalition, a 20-person group of private industry and public transportation officials whose aim is to communicate ahead of, instead of in hindsight to, the challenges of the region's road system with development.

"There's tons of growth going on in Reno-Sparks, and we weren't getting ahead of the growth," said Shirley Folkins-Roberts of Panattoni Development.

So she helped to create the coalition nearly a year ago along with Randi Reed, executive director of the Northern Nevada Chapter of NAIOP, formerly known as the National Association of Industrial Office Properties.

"We give them information on where we see future growth, industrial, residential. It's private industry giving government projected growth data they may not otherwise have known about," Folkins-Roberts said.

Bill Hoffman, deputy director of the Nevada Department of Transportation and a member of the coalition, said there was a disconnect that needed mending.

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"Developers were demanding new roads be built, but they don't understand time frames not matching expectations," Hoffman said.

With the help of Folkins-Roberts and Reed with NAIOP, organized meetings began last winter and are held on a regular basis to keep all sides communicating.

Especially in the post-recession boom, it's a been a crucial improvement for the region, Hoffman said, citing "synergies" from the coalition membership.

"Developers are starting to realize it takes years, with all the federal and state red tape and hoops, to get (highway) funding," he said. "We're all at the table now."

There's been at least one payoff to the effort, he said. A topic of the meetings was forecasts from developers of more business and homes in south Reno that would clog westbound South Meadows and Damonte Ranch parkways where they shrink into one right-turn lane onto the Interstate 580 freeway.

So NDOT has added an additional lane at both sites faster than it might ordinarily have, Hoffman said.

"Through the coalition, we were tipped off, so we decided to accelerate the projects. It would have taken a lot longer otherwise if we didn't have that data from developers," he said.

Also at the coalition table is Aaron West, CEO of Nevada Builders Alliance.

"We've been able to bring to light some of the residential impacts," he said. "I've been very impressed at the level of commitment, when you get folks in one room and start talking. It's a great forum for the business community."

The Transportation Coalition's meetings are also proving valuable, as NDOT and the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County work on the massive, years-long revamping of the I-80/I-580 Spaghetti Bowl now in the environmental analysis stage.

Lee Gibson, RTC executive director, applauded NAIOP's role in organizing the Transportation Coalition of which he, too, is a member.

"It's good for business to be dialed in," Gibson said. "That's the key. They're helping not just communicate with us, but also talking with elected leaders and helping them understand the importance of our transportation investments."

He added, "There's good dialogue across the board. It's working well."

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