Before 2005, the standard excuse for being 10 minutes late in Reno was “getting caught by the train“. Whether you actually did get caught at a train stop or not, the unpredictability of when the train came through made the excuse irrefutable. When it did happen, which was fairly often for me in college, I would count the train cars in anticipation of the caboose. It was almost hypnotic to watch them shoot past your window view one after another. The moment you heard the bawl of the train whistle you became enamored by the power of its locomotion. Although, that feeling instantly subsided once you looked at your watch and realized you’re late for a work shift.
That all ended just a few years ago when the train tracks descended underground like the Morlocks. The aforementioned traffic congestion and safety concerns spurred the largest public works project ever undertaken in northern Nevada, the Reno Transportation Rail Access Corridor (ReTRAC).
A 54-foot wide, 33-foot deep train trench was built to depress over two miles of train track that ran directly through downtown Reno. The change was astounding. Traffic flow improved, emergency vehicle access was enhanced, and property value and opportunity increased. The cost of $265 million was paid for with a hotel room tax, special assessment district, sales tax increase, city bond, and $17 million from Union Pacific Railroad and federal grants.
Today, vehicles flow through downtown without waiting while trains move almost silently underground. This was a significant change in Defining Reno. It might be difficult to even remember what is was like when the train was street level. Can you?
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NOTE: The thoughts and opinions expressed by Paul Klein in this blog are personal and not that of the City of Reno.