South Virginia Rapid Transit Project Update

by Mike Van Houten / Sep 22, 2010

Alright so let's talk about South Virginia Street. The City council just finished absorbing a rapid-fire presentation on the update of the streetcar / light rail / landscaping project of South Virginia Street. The Street Car / light rail project is turning into comprehensive effort over at the Regional Transportation Commission. Forgive the fragmented writing below, I wrote this on my break at work. Plus the presenters had waaay too much coffee. I could barely keep up!

Portland-based Shiels | Obletz | Johnsen has been working on a report for the potential for light rail on South Virginia Street, and returned phase 1 of the report back to RTC. Here are the highlights:

- Corridor is well positioned for light rail. It's a linear corridor, already produces significant ridership, and holds greatest potential for public transportation
- There is the potential for hIgh quality transit to serve attractions including gaming, tourism, government and retail along South Virginia Street.

- The development potential over 20 years is estimated to be:

  • $500 million without streetcar, and 1.5 billion with streetcar.
  • The streetcar premium could generate 1 billion
  • 4,100 residential units
  • 7.4 square million feet of development
  • $60 million in property tax revenue
  • Projected development in reno: 9.5 million per mile over 20 years.
  • Return on public investment: 6 times the investment

- The above estimates would form the pinning's of the future financial plan. RTC has tapped the private market to assist with the financial plan, and will be cognitive of the risks before making any commitments.
- The groups involved looked at Little Rock, Portland and Seattle as examples and comparisons.

Transit Operational Framework Estimates:
- Currently 5,500 people a day use the bus system on South Virginia Street and this number is increasing.
- The light rail / Street Car system would link 8,850 hotel rooms, and provide the ability to connect downtown to UNR, convention center
- Would provide iconic value to tourists, residents

The Phasing options, which would/could be dictated by funds, include (in no particular order):
- UNR to downtown,
- Downtown Loop
- Downtown to Convention Center
- Convention Center to Meadowood Mall

The downtown service features would include couplets and circulate tourists, promoting development and walkability downtown.

Cost Estimates:
- Construction Cost: $37 million per mile, does include Amortized amount for maintenance
- Operating Cost: $1.2 to $1.4 million per mile, approx. .25 more than the current cost on South Virginia Street

- Local Finance options including tax sources, federal funds, fuel tax, UNR contribution and more

- John Hester mentioned that the Dept of Transportation is now looking at funding projects in terms of how they effect the environment, development potential, and community life.

Moving Forward:

RTC is continuing the project, looking at Service phasing options, Federal Eligibility and local financing options. Funding process could take 16 to 18 months. Could be asking for federal funds in January for engineering and planning. Federal funding is dependent on a local match, between 40% and 50%.

Regarding the landscaping portion of the project, there is not a lot of new information that I didn't present here. The public, in the past two public meetings, like the Organic look the best.

Post your comments
  • September 22, 2010 - 7:30:43 AM

    What time and where is it?

  • September 22, 2010 - 7:58:11 AM

    BRING BACK THE FLOWER BASKETS! Heck, I'll personally collect donations to help pay for them if I have to or help with the watering/maintenance. I know they aren't a vital necessity, but they add so much charm and color to downtown. I really missed them this year.

  • September 23, 2010 - 8:06:45 AM

    The Ward 1 NAB has put forwarding funding for the flower baskets so I hope that has taken care of it, at least for this year.

  • September 23, 2010 - 9:25:43 AM

    What was the deal with yesterday's city council meeting? It got off to a dicey start when the mayor pulled item B1 from the redevelopment agenda. Item B1 would have provided an overdue staff report on the current and future status of our current and future redevelopment projects. Poof! Squelched before the meeting started. On the city's website, a redevelopment meeting date was scheduled, but the agenda remained marked "unavailable," even as the meeting was in progress. Free of any obligation to account for redevelopment , a relieved council went on to hear the rapid transit plan. No one even flinched at the suggestion of diverting more property tax increment or creating more special tax districts to muster the local financing portion. The council also expressed continued support for an interest-free recovery zone loan for the Freighthouse -- any discussion of which would have been contained in pulled item, B1. The redevelopment meeting was over in a flash, with no discussion about redevelopment and no request for future agenda items. When Jessica Sferrazza recommended the need for a town hall meeting, the mayor's response was tepid. He suggested November, presumably after the election. When is the Stadium/Freighthouse payment due?

  • September 30, 2010 - 10:08:09 AM

    I just returned from Portland and used the Light Rail system. I am floored by people who don't like the idea of light rail. The system in Portland is absolutely amazing. If we want our community to continue to grow, we have to take the steps to run with the big boys, one of those steps is a useable mass transportation. One route that is needed and should be considered is an aiport route.