City Council Discusses North Reno Intersection Safety
Kellene StockwellChannel 2 News
The Reno City Council discussed improving safety on north Virginia Street near 17th Street where JK Metzker was hit last weekend.
KTVN's chief meteorologist Mike Alger testified before the council Wednesday afternoon urging them to make upgrades. "Although we know that things now can't bring JK back, we can help other families and work places from having to go through the loss of someone who is just simply trying to cross the street." (His complete statement is below)
Council members later unanimously approved upgrades to both pedestrian and bike lanes to north Virginia Street and north Sierra Streets located near the University of Nevada campus.
Changes include installing flashing lights and a crosswalk near where Metzker was hit by a car late Saturday night. That area should see a temporary crosswalk with flashing lights in the coming weeks.
The council is also looking into lowering the speed limit from 35 miles per hour and adding some lighting on north Virginia which sees more than 10,000 cars a day.
"Why has it taken so long for anything to be done here?," asks KTVN reporter Chris Ciarlo.
"Prior to about a year and a half ago, it was Nevada Department of Transportation's right away. They were the ones that handled and put in any improvements to that location. So, I can't really speak to how they operated in the past," says City of Reno Traffic Manager Steve Bunnell.
Sierra Street will also be reduced to one lane between 9th Street to the north Virginia intersection. The entire $600,000 project could take up to one year to complete.
Earlier this week, Regional Transportation Commission Director of Engineering Jeff Hale told us 12,000 cars use that intersection everyday. But while he hears continued frustration, he says crosswalks are not always easily installed. "We have a project, and it's just unfortunate we couldn't have gotten it out a bit sooner. Maybe we could have prevented this unfortunate accident."
Reno Mayor Bob Cashell choked up as he asked for a moment of silence to remember Metzker.
Here is the text of Mike Alger's statement:
Mr. Mayor, City Council Members, City Staff - I'm Mike Alger from KTVN Channel 2 News. I'm joined by some of my fellow members of the Channel 2 News family today.
As you know, we lost our dear friend, JK Metzker, over the weekend when he was struck by a vehicle following the Wolf Pack football game. He was crossing North Virginia Street near 17th street in an area where there is no crosswalk and there is not a lot of light – despite it being an area with a high volume of foot traffic, especially before and after football games, basketball games and other University and neighborhood events.
There are probably not very many people in this room who haven't made that walk – or dash – across that street going to or from events, while making sure that the oncoming traffic was far enough away for them to safely cross. And the odds are very good that anyone who has done it has commented that there should be a crosswalk there.
Now, what I'm about to say is highly irregular coming from a News organization where the main objective is always to stay neutral in covering stories and present both sides. But another objective of every broadcasting company is public safety. And in light of last weekend's events and years and years of countless others dodging vehicles, we feel there is a public safety issue on North Virginia Street near 17th Street.
In fact, our News Director Jason Pasco has felt that for some time. He talked in the Newsroom Sunday of how for the past nearly 17 years he's lived here he's said "someone should do something about this" every time he's made that crossing and avoided oncoming cars. Monday morning, after coming to grips with JK's death, he decided to finally stop waiting for someone else to do something and try to do something himself. He called Michele Anderson with the City to find out what steps needed to happen to get the ball rolling for a crosswalk and better lighting in that area.
Much to his, and our delight, he learned that there was an item on the agenda for this very meeting that would address that concern. While we know these things now can't bring JK back, it can help any other families and workplaces from having to go through the loss of a loved one who was simply crossing a street.
So, we would ask that the City not only approve Agenda Item J-3 for RTC's North Virginia Street and Sierra Street Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Improvement Project – but that they also work to expedite this project and complete it much faster than the projected timeline. I'm no expert in what it takes to get these projects underway, but it seems that there are things that could be done to streamline this project. Obviously there's a lot involved here with sewer work and paving and things, so maybe a year is as fast as it can be done. If that is the case – we would like to request that the City at least install a temporary crosswalk and lighting in that area to immediately to provide a safe place for students and residents to cross North Virginia Street before and during construction of this project.
Accidents will happen, but we urge the City to do something to lessen the likelihood of them in this area and do everything in its power to make sure that someone who goes to a football game can return home safely afterwards.
All of us here at KTVN-TV and Channel 2 News send our thoughts and prayers and deepest condolences to the Metzker family.
If you'd like to share your condolences, you can post them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/metzkerfamily or mail them to the Metzker family in care of KTVN-TV, 4925 Energy Way, Reno, NV 89502.
KTVN has set up an account through Wells Fargo Banks for donations to JK Metzker's family. It is open for donations now at any Wells Fargo location.
Donors should inform tellers the money is for a donation account and the name of the account is the ‘Metzker Family Fund.' (acct #5867974627)
A memorial service is being held this Friday at 2pm at Our Lady of the Snows at 1138 Wright Street. It will be aired live on Channel 2.2 and Charter 222. It will also be streamed live on our website at ktvn.com.
The 41-year-old Metzker had worked for KTVN-TV in Reno for nearly 14 years. He's survived by his wife, Jaimie, and three sons.
Meanwhille, the suspect in the case, 23-year-old Ryan Rhea was arrested Sunday and charged with one felony count of hit-and-run causing death after the Nevada-Hawai'i football game at Mackay Stadium.
Reno police say Rhea confessed to the accident and that he had alcohol in his system. He's out on $10,000 bail.