ReTRAC An HISTORIC ACHIEVEMENT
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LETTER FROM THE CITY Memorializing the completion of the Reno Transportation Rail Access Corridor project
A CROWNING ACCOMPLISHMENT Bridging the gaps in the heart of Reno
to the past 4 tracks railroad’s roots run deep in Reno
PROCESS 6 COLLABORATIVE many individuals and entities joined forces to successfully complete ReTRAC
ETRAC REFLECTIONS 8 RLeaders from government ofﬁces and the business community applaud the ReTRAC project
UNIFIED VOICE Supportive city council members and downtown business partners paved the way for ReTRAC’S success
12 PURE ART Artists spruce up the ReTRAC project with creative touches
GRAND RECEPTIONS ReTRAC’S ﬁnale was celebrated with much fanfare
18 THANK YOU To our partners
R eTRAC Mikalee Dahle Amanda Burden Jodi Tenenbaum Tim Kist Marilyn Newton Richard Stokes Alicia Santistevan Nevada Historical Society Writers Linda Fine Mella Rothwell Harmon Ann Lindemann Jennifer MacKay Michelle Montoya
Managing Editor Senior Editor Art Director Production Manager Photographers
For more information, call (775) 788-6200 or visit RenoMagazine.com
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L i v i n g h i s t o r y } This publication is intended to memorialize and recognize the efforts and hard work of all those who contributed to ReTRAC’s success.
A l etter f rom t he c ity ReTRAc a
M ARKS era
ith the completion of the Reno Transportation Rail Access Corridor project, or ReTRAC as it is more commonly known, the City of Reno sees an end to trafﬁc, safety, and environmental issues associated with the railroad that were the catalyst for launching this magniﬁcent public works project. It also is the beginning of a new era in downtown Reno. As the major portion of the ReTRAC project is completed, enhancements to the project in the downtown area will provide much-needed space for major events, community gatherings, and even emerging business opportunities. All along the more than twomile corridor, the once unsightly railroad tracks are being replaced by public art, landscaping, and other public uses forever changing the face of the community. To say that ReTRAC is the largest public works project in the history of our community is obvious but limiting. It is not unreasonable to suggest that this project will have one of the most signiﬁcant and farreaching impacts on our community and region — more than any other public works project to date. The completion of ReTRAC — which was accomplished on time and under budget — for our residents, business owners, and visitors, is a reﬂection of the tenacity, commitment, and dedication of the community as a whole. It took not only government
leaders and elected ofﬁcials to make this project a reality, but also the support and efforts of business leaders, community activists, civic and business organizations, and the residents of the City of Reno and the region. This publication is intended to memorialize and recognize the efforts and hard work of all those who made this project happen, from the community leaders and citizens who worked so hard over the years to bring the idea of a depressed railway to fruition, to the actual workers who accomplished this great engineering feat. All played an important role in making this project a national model for other communities facing similar challenges. Every step in the process was signiﬁcant, from the innovation of using a design-build strategy to the engineering decision to use a combination of universal construction techniques to build the project. Also, the on-going input from citizens and businesses and oversight by city public works ofﬁcials and contracted vendors were important to the process. All these seemingly individual factors combined to create the ﬁnal award-winning and exemplary project that serves as a reminder of the past and a bridge to our community’s future. The ReTRAC project truly is a monument to our community’s determination and will continue to make our city great.
N e a r i n g c o m p l e t i o n } In this photo, the train cooridor is almost ready to welcome trains. The original tracks are to the left.
A C ROWNING A CCOMPLISHMENT B R I D G I N G T H E G A P S I N T H E H E A RT O F R E N O Written by Ann Lindemann
s long as trains have chugged through Reno, there has been discussion regarding ways to mitigate the impact of the railroad tracks downtown. However, it wasn’t until 1996 that government ofﬁcials, concerned citizens, and railroad representatives concretely planted the seeds of Northern Nevada’s most ambitious and pivotal public works project. A merger between railroad giants Union Paciﬁc and Southern Paciﬁc precipitated a federally mandated study of the impacts of increased train trafﬁc through Reno. “There had already been concerns about the safety of the existing train trafﬁc,” says Charles McNeely, Reno City Manager. “Our fear was as train trafﬁc grew, it would become increasingly unsafe in the downtown core, especially for emergency services.” A legal issue between the city and the
railroad resulted in a $60-million dollar settlement, which provided the seed money for the Reno Transportation Rail Access Corridor (ReTRAC) project. “Once we selected the long-term solution, we asked ‘how can we ﬁx up the whole downtown corridor into something that the community as a whole could be proud of?’” McNeely says.
Separating trains and cars What resulted was a $242-million project that called for the construction of a 33-foot deep train trench below the existing tracks to separate train trafﬁc from automobile trafﬁc in downtown Reno. Inside this trench, two mainline tracks were built to permit maximum train speeds of 60 miles per hour. Additionally, an access road adjacent to and on the south side of the tracks was required. To address vehicular trafﬁc ﬂow, 11 street crossings, or “bridges,” were built across the top of the trench. Landscaping and public art features also
were incorporated into the plan. Funding came from a variety of sources, including a room tax, the formation of a special downtown assessment district, federal grants, a sales tax increase, a city bond, and $17 million from Union Paciﬁc for necessary railwork. Importantly, no money was taken from the city’s general fund. Ultimately, it was this variety of different funding sources and the cooperation of virtually every concerned entity, including city hall, the Downtown Improvement Association, NEWCO (a group of four downtown gaming properties), Citizens Oversight Committee, and key stakeholders that led to ReTRAC’s success. Representatives from these various groups all had input in the initial design process and the construction phase. “You could call this a true publicprivate partnership,” notes Reno Director of Public Works Steve Varela, who won a national award for his work on the ReTRAC project.
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3 Innovative approach Granite Construction was chosen as the builder based on the company’s expertise, timeliness, and monetary bid. An innovative “design-build” approach led to a $15-million savings, as well as shaving off 18 months of planning time, Varela says. Design-build is a unique procurement method, which dictates that the contractor and designer work as one entity from the start of the project. On the ReTRAC project, this collaboration meant costly change orders were kept to less than three percent. “When the designer and the contractor work together, you get a better product,” Varela says. Another important facet of ReTRAC’s success is the painstaking efforts made to watchdog and monitor the project. The environmental experts led by MADCON Consulting were responsible for soil, air, water, and noise aspects related to the project. Ofﬁcials at the ﬁrm were fastidious in oversight of the project, with mobile monitoring conducted by a remote sensor camera, and staff members also performed daily ﬁeld reports that were downloaded onto the Internet. Residents, business owners, and project builders could log onto Retrac.info to get up-to-the-minute data on the status of the project. “This was the largest public works project in the history of the city,” says Mark Demuth of MADCON, “and being downtown it was very visible. Plus, it’s everyone’s home.” M o m e n t o u s o c c a s i o n } A train travels along the trench tracks during a ReTRAC ceremoney.
N ATIONAL ATTENTION ReTRAC MAKES PRESTIGIOUS LIST OF GRANITE CONSTRUCTION ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Granite Construction} The company’s employees work on high-proﬁle public projects throughout the nation.
Written by Jennifer MacKay
The completion of the ReTRAC project puts Reno in a class with the big guns — cities such as Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. — that have had portions of their transport systems forged by national corporate powerhouse Granite Construction. To be sure, Granite is a household name in these parts. One of the construction giant’s 12 national branch divisions is located in Sparks. But for a project the size and scope of ReTRAC, Granite brought in what company leaders term their heavyconstruction division, which tackles many of the nation’s most high-proﬁle public projects — endeavors that take years to complete and usually come with a price tag of at least $50 million. Ron Dukeshire, project manager for Granite Construction, came to Reno speciﬁcally to oversee ReTRAC. “I moved here just for this job,” he says. “I work the heavy projects, wherever they are.” Given Dukeshire’s background with
projects such as dams, hydroelectric stations, and subways, ReTRAC mostly was just another day at the ofﬁce. But ReTRAC also stood out — ironically, in this desert climate, because of its moisture. “We ran into ground water,” Dukeshire says. “The plan was to start at one end and move all the way through. But we ended up moving from each end and going toward the middle.” This was to get around puddling problems that came to be known as the “bathtub effect.” Then came a Reno winter that rivaled the worst to be had anywhere in the nation. “The winter of 2004–2005 was quite a challenge,” Dukeshire says. “We moved a lot of snow.” ReTRAC was completed on schedule just the same. Dukeshire soon will head out in pursuit of his next big project. But the train trench puts Reno on a prestigious list of cities — those with signiﬁcant infrastructure projects that grabbed the national attention of Granite Construction.
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Creating a link} Chinese laborers toil on the Southern Paciﬁc Railroad line through the Sierra Nevada in the 1800s.
tracks to the past RAILROAD’S ROOTS RUN DEEP IN RENO Wr i t t e n b y Mella Rothwell Harmon
R H a r d l a b o r } two southern paciﬁc railroad employees
eno owes its existence to the transcontinental railroad. The idea of a railroad to link the East to the western wilderness was conceived many years before the Civil War, which halted its realization until the conﬂict ended. In 1862, a group of Californians received authorization to build the Central Paciﬁc Railroad eastward from San Francisco and link up at Promontory Point, Utah with the Union Paciﬁc Railroad, which was building west from the Missouri River. Both railroads operated departments tasked with laying out and plotting orderly settlements along their routes. In 1868, the CPRR’s superintendent of construction, Charles Crocker, was seeking a location for the townsite in the Truckee Meadows. In 1861, Myron C. Lake, a New Yorker who operated a ranch at Honey Lake in northeastern California, purchased a toll bridge across the Truckee River from Charles W. Fuller, who had tried to make a go of the endeavor since 1859. The river crossing was an important transportation link between the remarkably rich and booming Comstock mining district and ranchers north of the Truckee. With the proﬁts from his enterprise, Lake purchased additional land surrounding his bridge. Until the arrival of the railroad, the place was called Lake’s Crossing.
shovel dirt at the repair shop in Sparks. Below, a Southern Paciﬁc train pulls into Sparks.
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Reno was born from the railroad} The Truckee Meadows site was signiﬁcant, as it was the last major stop before trains headed over the Sierra Nevada.
Bound for glory} A large crowd mills outside the Reno train station in front of a Southern Paciﬁc train in the 1890s.
The Central Paciﬁc’s route through the Truckee Meadows followed the river. The location of the station and townsite in the Meadows was particularly important, as it was to be the last major stop before trains made their way over the Sierra Nevada by way of Donner Summit. Despite the fact that Donner Summit, at 7,085 feet above sea level, is not the highest pass in the Sierra, its eastern approach is especially steep. Charles Crocker’s choice of locations in the Truckee Meadows was limited by hills west of Lake’s Crossing and the marshes east of Glendale, a settlement approximately ﬁve miles southeast of Lake’s Crossing. It was spring ﬂooding, however that gave Myron Lake the upper hand with the CPRR. An unusually high run-off in the spring of 1868 ﬁlled Glendale with several feet of water. Thus, Myron Lake’s offer to sell the railroad 160 acres for a depot and town was accepted, and Reno was born. The CPRR’s original townsite grid comprised of eight blocks east-west and six north-south. Four hundred lots, most of which were 2,500 square feet, went up for auction on May 9, 1868. Typical of railroad towns, the depot, hotels, restaurants, boardinghouses, bars, and theaters were concentrated along the tracks, while other industries ﬁlled the
T h e W i l d B u n c h } A portrait of the men who ﬁnanced the Union and Southern Paciﬁc railroads.
outlying blocks, and residential areas grew up on the fringes. By the middle of July, 1868, trains, carrying everything from livestock to construction materials, were running Monday through Saturday between Sacramento and the division point at Wadsworth. Products of the region’s agriculture, particularly cattle and alfalfa hay, made constant demands on Reno’s rail services, creating an immediate economic mainstay for the town. The railroad, which became the Southern Paciﬁc in 1903, served Reno’s singular industries that developed over the decades. Divorce-seekers and gamblers came by train to avail themselves of the unique opportunities Reno offered.
By the 1930s, Reno was a bustling town of more than 18,000 permanent residents. In an effort to ﬁnd a solution for railroad safety and trafﬁc problems, a transportation study released in 1942 recommended lowering the railroad tracks below street grade through town. The study estimated such a project would cost $2.58 million, and with World War II raging, its construction was not feasible. Subsequent transportation studies raised the notion of lowering the tracks, and each proposed higher and higher price tags. By 1973, the estimate to lower the tracks was $30 million. The cost was prohibitive, and railroad participation was elusive. In 1995, the Union Paciﬁc Railroad ﬁled an application with the Surface Transportation Board to merge with Southern Paciﬁc. The merger would double or even triple the number of trains passing through Reno. By now, Reno’s population was nearly 160,000, and safety and trafﬁc problems had kept pace. The City needed to ensure that the impacts from the merger would be mitigated. The involvement of the Surface Transportation Board made the Union Paciﬁc-Southern Paciﬁc merger a federal undertaking, opening the door to one of Reno’s greatest public works projects.
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collaborative process MANY INDIVIDUALS AND ENTITIES JOINED FORCES TO SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETE ReTRAC By Mella Rothwell Harmon
n Oct. 4, 2002, 43 people signed the front page of the partnering charter for the ReTRAC project, signaling the start of construction of Reno’s plan to lower the train tracks. ReTRAC partners — Granite Construction, the Union Paciﬁc Railroad, Jacobs Civil, Inc., MADCON Consultation Services, local utility companies, the City of Reno, and a cadre of sub-contractors — agreed to the project’s successful completion through open communication, mutual beneﬁt, and respect. Project leaders agreed that their goals were safety, quality, cost, schedule, community, environment, and teamwork. The outcome of the partnership was a high-quality project completed on time and under budget. ReTRAC was the ﬁrst major designbuild transportation project in the state of Nevada. As such, Mary Peters, former director of the Federal Highway Administration, commended ReTRAC as a model for transportation projects.
Uniting talents Industry veteran Granite Construction was awarded the $170-million designbuild contract for the 2.25-mile-long trench. MADCON Consultation Services of Reno ensured compliance with the myriad of complex environmental considerations, ranging from biological and cultural resources to the economic impacts of the project. The Environmental Impact Statement, an initial step in the ReTRAC process, was successfully completed in an unprecedented 22 months. Design-build and partnering gave Granite and other team members direct responsibility for handling unanticipated problems. Parsons, an international transportation planning company, served as the design team leader, managing all aspects of the engineering and design, while Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc., a projectmanagement ﬁrm with employees worldwide, reviewed design and oversaw construction services. With the designers on the construction team, changes could be made on the spot,
saving time and money. Team members brainstormed in response to every problem that arose, drawing on their individual creativity and ingenuity to ﬁnd solutions.
Overcoming obstacles One such issue was how to excavate pits for the underpinning piers beneath the Railway Express Ofﬁce and the Southern Paciﬁc Railroad Freight House without damaging the historically signiﬁcant masonry buildings. Sitting, as the buildings do, on the edge of the trench, the use of large mechanical equipment was not advised. The solution came from Schnabel Foundation Company. Schnabel’s crew hand-dug the narrow pits to a depth of 35 to 40 feet. Another problem inherent in construction projects well-served by the designbuild contract was the increase in steel and other contract costs. To combat this issue, Granite leaders executed agreements with subcontractors early in the project, which kept change orders to a remarkable three percent of project costs.
S m o o t h f l o w } The design-build process and partnering gave granite and other team members direct responsibility for handling issues that cropped up.
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T he B ackbone of R e trac MARTIN IRON WORKS,INC. PROVIDES CRITICAL SUPPORT Written by Jennifer MacKay
There are about 9.5 million pounds of rebar in Reno’s new train trench. That few people saw any of it moving through the
Critical partnerships} The City adopted a team approach, uniting the talents of stakeholders.
Numerous subcontractors participated in various aspects of ReTRAC. Primary subcontractors included Nolte and Associates, Stantec, Condon-Johnson Associates, Inc., Schnabel Foundation Company, Martin Iron Works, PAR Electrical Contractors, Inc., NEWCO, and Goldman Sachs. ReTRAC partners accomplished what few involved in transportation projects do. They fulﬁlled the speciﬁc project goal to lower the railroad tracks through Reno in a timely, strategically executed manner. In the words of the partnering charter: “By accomplishing these goals, we establish a model and standard for future Design-Build transportation projects. We enhance our knowledge, experience, and reputations for excellence. We ﬁnish with an award-winning project, professionally developed people, enduring friendships, and a desire to work together again. We take pride in a job well done!”
streets downtown is a testament to the ingenuity of Martin Iron Works, Inc., the subcontractor that supplied the steel holding the entire project together. “A substantial number of the reinforcing pieces had up to a 17-foot tail,” says Martin Iron Works’ executive vice president Mario Bullentini. “These parts were specially loaded off-site and shipped with wide-load permits early in the morning.” The prefabricated steel reinforcements essentially formed the supporting skeleton for a concrete basin that stands 33 feet deep, 54 feet wide, and 2.1 miles long. The trench’s 2.5-foot-thick walls are held together at the slab-towall juncture by Martin Iron rebar. Transporting the ungainly steel sections was just one of the unique challenges the trench posed to Martin Iron Works, a company whose construction efforts have been shaping the Truckee Meadows skyline since 1939 with such endeavors as the Atlantis skybridge and the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. During ReTRAC, the company’s workers constantly battled inclement weather, struggling to keep momentum despite the signiﬁcant setbacks posed by two of the heaviest winters to hit Northern Nevada in history. The steel market was equally chilly. Martin Iron plowed through long months of negotiations when steel prices reached unprecedented highs, rising about $250 per ton during 2004, according to the American Institute of Architects — a surge that boosted the average cost of a steel-framed project by about 12 percent and challenged Martin Iron Works to keep ReTRAC on budget. But somehow it did. And though by design, few residents saw Martin Iron at work, the trench adds up to one of the company’s biggest successes in the company’s 67-year history of melding the City of Reno, one piece of forged steel at a time.
M a r t i n I r o n W o r k s } The longtime Reno business worked day and night so there was minimal disruption to the public.
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City leaders} From left, Reno Mayor Bob Cashell joins city council members Dwight Dortch. Dave Aiazzi, and Pierre Hascheff at the Amtrak station downtown.
R etrac R EFLECTIONS LEADERS FROM GOVERNMENT OFFICES AND THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY APPLAUD THE ReTRAC PROJECT Written by Ann Lindemann
he ReTRAC project has created a vital pathway that leads Reno into a promising future. At the conclusion of this arduous six-year endeavor, a group of dedicated city, state and business leaders took time to reﬂect on this momentous occasion and realize the journey’s signiﬁcance. Like any ambitious public/private project, ReTRAC was met with its share of vocal naysayers, court battles, and general wariness. However, when the project successfully came into existence, a wave of conﬁdence and optimism washed over the prickly underpinnings of doubt. Here, key people share their perspectives on the project.
City Leadership Despite the daunting task of undertaking such an endeavor and the vocality of early doubters, Mayor Bob Cashell said he was extremely proud of how the project was carried out. “The overall project has been like a storybook,” Cashell says. “With Steve Varela’s direction and his staff … it shows that government can plan and work together. I’m so proud of our staff, of our council and all the people we worked with.” Cashell also praises the leadership skills of City Manager Charles McNeely who “stayed on top of everything,” he says. Former Reno mayor Jeff Grifﬁn estimates that it took six years and some 500 planning meetings to bring the project to fruition. Like the trains that now travel on the tracks 30 feet below downtown, the ReTRAC project kept chugging along. “The city has shown that it can get a major project completed,” Grifﬁn says, one that he strongly believes is “… the latest catalyst in the revitalization of the downtown core.”
And the project also beneﬁted from strong City Council support. Early in the project, at-large councilmember Pierre Hascheff sought to address two ReTRAC rumors: one that the City Council had a hidden agenda, and the other implying that the required Environmental Impact Statement somehow was fabricated. First he says the merger of the two railroads is what spurred the initial research and planning. Furthermore, the EIS documents were not completed by the City of Reno, but rather a neutral entity. He adds that city ofﬁcials looked at other metropolitan areas that dealt with similar projects and, subsequently, sent staffers to those locations to research and learn from these cities’ mistakes. Fellow councilmember Dave Aiazzi agrees that the project was a collaborative effort resulting in an end product essential to the future of Reno. “I credit the staff who delivered exactly what they said they would,” he says. “After the EIS was ﬁled, they came up with an exact price and told us what it would take to make it happen ... It was well researched, and all the decisions were well thought out and documented. This project should help to instill conﬁdence in Reno city government.”
National perspective Even United States Senator Harry Reid showed his support on Capital Hill. The Nevada native recognized the project’s value and took it one step better with the procurement of additional federal funding. “When trains were running through downtown Reno, they caused safety hazards,” Reid says. “This [ReTRAC] will help keep residents and visitors safe, and keep both trains and
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9 trafﬁc moving efﬁciently. Plus, it improves the look of downtown Reno and will make it easier to encourage economic development. This is a great project, and I’m glad I was able to help fund it.”
Business input Exhibiting perseverance and tenacity, the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce has been a longtime supporter of the ReTRAC project. “The Chamber has always felt it was very important,” says Harry York, Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce CEO. “If you are going to have a downtown that is going to fully improve and take advantage of itself, you can’t have a train rumbling through … and if it’s 11 trains or 22 trains, it doesn’t really make a difference. The longterm good of the community and the potential for a quality visitor experience is what it’s all about.” So passionate it was about the cause, York said the Chamber supported the suit that was successfully ﬁled to combat an illegal attempt at blocking the ReTRAC project in a petition-gathering process. The project beneﬁted from another local business resource, the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. President and CEO Chuck Alvey says that while his non-proﬁt business development consulting group didn’t play a role in the project’s implementation, it was happy to provide critical commentary. “Basically, we said if you want to successfully develop the downtown area, you cannot have a train track going through it,” Alvey says. “I think it deﬁnitely removes a barrier or stumbling block.” He said potential business developers routinely ask him about the city government’s merits. “This ReTRAC project shows that the city works efﬁciently, that you can count on them … just look at this project and how well it was managed.” From a different vantage point, Silver Legacy General Manager Gary Carano underscores the beneﬁts of the project. “ReTRAC has been a catalyst for downtown revitalization and this affects the entire community of Reno and Sparks,” Carano said. “This is a fantastic project and it is important for our area’s growth, vitality and environmental concerns … not to mention the ease of livability in terms of driving through the city.” Moving through} A succesful downtown does not have a train track stopping trafﬁc.
N evada S tate b ank p ublic f inance ReTRAC’S PROFESSIONAL FINANCIAL ADVISOR Written by Jennifer MacKay
For a project as large, diverse, and potentially controversial as ReTRAC, it is impossible to underestimate the value of sound ﬁnancial advice. This was the role played by Nevada State Bank (NSB) Public Finance — a division of Zions Bank — the Las Vegas-based entity that steered ReTRAC’s fund-seekers successfully in the right direction. “As ﬁnancial advisor, we guided the City of Reno through the bond process to make sure everything was done in their best interest,” says Andrew Artusa, managing director for NSB Public Finance. “We helped the city achieve a very low cost of capital.” Proponents of ReTRAC had the need for creative funding to reassure a concerned public. Receiving state legislative approval for a dedicated sales tax, locking in the best possible interest rates and protecting bond holders were challenges the city had to overcome. Wielding its reputable status — the company is ranked by Thomson Financial as the eighth largest ﬁnancial advisor for competitive issues (by par amount) in the nation — NSB Public Finance helped the dream of ReTRAC materialize in the face of signiﬁcant struggles. “The challenge of the ﬁnancing was the large, multiple bond series,” Artusa says. “The City used some very unique ﬁnancing with revenue bonds paid back by room and sales taxes.” ReTRAC also became the ﬁrst project in Nevada history to secure a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan, a federally awarded line of credit available for the completion of largescale highway, transit, and passenger rail projects — just one of many components that helped complete the requisite funding package. “The ﬁnancing of this project took a long time to complete,” Artusa says. “All the pieces had to fall into place for it to happen. Now, to have the trench running through Reno is a project the City should be proud to have accomplished.”
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In the trenches} City and community leaders worked together to bring the project to fruition.
U nified V oice SUPPORTIVE CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS AND DOWNTOWN BUSINESS PARTNERS PAVED T H E WAY F O R R e T R A C ’ S S U C C E S S Written by Linda Fine
ot long ago, the city was divided — literally and ﬁguratively. At the epicenter of the controversy was the ReTRAC project, which aimed to geographically and diplomatically unify a city that had been bisected for generations. Disparate views were shared by Reno residents. Those days now are gone. No longer is the town separated by the issue of trains snaking their way east and west through Reno. Particularly, without uniﬁed and involved City Council members and the support of the businesses that would be affected by the venture, the long-awaited lowering of the tracks may not have reached fruition, and the culmination of the venture may have been much more difﬁcult. Two City Councilmen, Dave Aiazzi and Pierre Hascheff, were part of the undertaking from the outset. “If it didn’t happen in the past, there was a reason,” Councilman Dave Aiazzi says about the fact that the enormous task of reaching a consensus on the ReTRAC project was on the council’s agenda several times. “Cleaning up downtown Reno and easing trafﬁc ﬂow are huge pluses. Also the trench itself has
spurred a lot of development in and around the downtown area. “In addition, we involved the citizens of Reno, who met and laid the ground rules for us,” he says, describing the Citizen’s Oversight Committee headed in 2005 by Reno attorney Brett Scolari. “The city set up a stakeholder process,” Scolari says. “Consisting of folks most likely affected by the trench, we were charged with identifying key issues and establishing guidelines and criteria that contractors would have to uphold particularly as it affected special events like Hot August Nights and Street Vibrations.” The committee, an independent body sponsored by the City of Reno, met monthly and consisted of ﬁve to seven members — all representing local businesses. According to Scolari, issues coming before the group ranged from solving trafﬁc ﬂow situations to arbitrating potential disputes.
Steam engine} without involved city council members, ReTRAC may not have been completed.
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11 He added that it was also the committee’s job to head off the many rumors that continually swirled around the project, replacing misperceptions with factual information that spoke to the issues.
Welcoming Change DOWNTOWN CASINOS UNIFY DURING AND AFTER ReTRAC
Assisting owners Scolari says that members of the Citizen’s Oversight Committee assisted property owners whose land was slated to be acquired by the city for the project. “This is a public-private partnership,” he says, emphasizing that the partnership attempted to unite the government with affected businesses. “We tried to mitigate the project’s effects by making suggestions as to what should be done. Additionally, we tried to be an intermediary body to assist with problems before they became big issues.” Councilman Dwight Dortch lauds not only fellow council members, but also Public Works Director Steve Varela, City Manager Charles McNeely, the work of the Citizen’s Oversight Committee and all city staff members. “They found answers to various issues that came up,” Dortch says. “It was a collaborative effort.”
Downtown improvements The community beneﬁts from the public safety aspect, Dortch says, as well as increased opportunity for redevelopment along the tracks between West Second Street and the eastern city limits, all of which now is city-owned. “This is a tremendous plus because of the additional business that will be brought downtown,” he says. Moreover, he says, previously blighted areas along the tracks are due for a face-lift as they are readied for development. All parties involved seem to look forward to the project’s next phases. “We’re glad the project is done,” Scolari says, referring to the monthly planning meetings. “For the most part, once it got going, people saw there were no cost overruns and that downtown is rebounding and everything is coming together.” But the project itself, he notes is not over — and won’t be as long as redevelopment continues and the city continues to beneﬁt from the lowered tracks. “One of the things we’re working on now and for the next year is city enhancements,” he says. “Things like covering the trench and landscaping. The city found some money to do these things and asked us to act as advisors, looking at plans and other things to get this done.”
Skyline access} Leaders at four key downtown gaming properties say ReTRAC gives new life to downtown Reno.
Written by Jennifer MacKay
The Black Eyed Peas. Destiny’s Child. Brooks & Dunn. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Some may have considered attracting these acts to Reno a pipe dream, but thanks to Downtown Reno Presents and the new Reno Events Center, it’s being called something else. “It’s a dream come true,” said Eldorado Vice President of Casino Marketing Rick Murdock. Murdock says ReTRAC was a vital ﬁrst step. “There are so many positive things going on downtown, but it didn’t do a lot of good to improve the rest if we didn’t start ﬁrst with ReTRAC.” Downtown Reno Presents is comprised of four local downtown hotel-casinos: Circus Circus Reno, the Eldorado Hotel Casino, Harrah’s Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino. What the four-way partnership has been able to do in its ﬁrst year is little short of amazing, said Murdock. “Because of the new facility and the combined efforts of all of us, we’ve been able to bring in concerts and shows that have bypassed bigger markets to appear here.” The other Downtown Reno Presents properties are just as pleased as Murdock. “When you compare the caliber of entertainment we have had in Reno this past year to what was here in prior years, we have a lot
to be proud of,” said Circus Circus Director of Sales and Marketing Jennifer Cunningham. Acts at the Reno Events Center have included the Black Eyed Peas, Alicia Keys, Tom Petty, Dave Chappelle, Santana, Keith Urban, Deanna Carter, Drew Carey & the Improv All-Stars, Motley Crue, George Lopez and Carole King. Downtown Reno Presents is busy working on bringing in even more great entertainment. “A cooperative partnership between four business competitors is pretty unique,” said Gary Carano, general manager of Silver Legacy Resort Casino. “In business today, new approaches and concepts are necessary to maintain a market leadership position. It has allowed us to achieve a level of entertainment offerings that no one property can do on its own.” And Downtown Reno Presents deﬁnes “entertainment” in a number of ways. “The Events Center is not only a concert venue, but we’ve had boxing matches and we’ve got national bull-riding events coming up. It’s really a multi-use facility able to do a lot of convention business, too,” said Murdock. Harrah’s Reno Director of Finance Donald Tateishi sums up the reason for the REC’s success. “Together, we’ve brought A-list entertainers to the area and have drafted a new and exciting appeal about downtown Reno; all of which wouldn’t have been feasible without this unique collaboration.”
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P URE A RT ARTISTS SPRUCE UP ReTRAC PROJECT WITH CREATIVE TOUCHES Written by Ann Lindemann
panning the train trench at 11 junctures, Seattle artist Jack Mackie’s latest public expression embraces Reno’s “city of trembling leaves” motto from the green trees of the Sierra Nevada to the desertscape to the east. “The leaves go from summer to autumn as you travel eastward,” says Christine Fey, Reno Arts and Culture Manager who coordinated ReTRAC’s public arts project. She says that although just one bridge now features Mackie’s artistic vision, the ﬁnished installation incorporates all 11 bridges.
Tr e m b l i n g l e a v e s } Jack Mackie, a Seattle artist, created metal structures that mimic leaves over the ReTRAC bridges.
We l c o m e a b o a r d } Vo Kemf, a local metal artist, created a sitting area above the ReTRAC project that’s decorated with a deconstructed train.
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Electrifying contributions DEDICATED PAR ELECTRICAL Not only was Mackie inspired by the verdant aspects of our area, but also the linear aspects: the river and the railroad tracks. “Jack Mackie is a renowned public artist who works internationally and nationally,” Fey says. “Linear projects are his forte.” Indeed, in the Biggest Little City, art is taken seriously. In fact, unlike many cities, Reno has an ordinance that requires two percent of a city project’s budget to be dedicated to acquisition, design, display and maintenance of art. The ambitious ReTRAC project was no exception.
EMPLOYEES ENJOYED APPLYING THEIR SKILLS TO RETRAC
PA R Electrical} Members of the PAR team, from left to right: Bob Harker, |Matt Frazer, Pete Plath, and Jack Harker.
Call to artists The visual aesthetic of the trench project has been of great concern to city leaders, who last summer issued a call to artists for the ReTRAC public Art Bench Project. Some 30 prospective artists devised plans for bench sculptures that reﬂected various aspects of six different surface street locations surrounding the trench area. Besides sturdy, weatherproof construction, design criteria required a seating area that was comfortable, but did not accommodate sleeping and followed American Disability Act guidelines for access. Here is a list of some of the artistic benches installed or in the works: ■
Reno artist Jeff Erickson’s 9-foot tall birdcages, located on Third Street, between West Street and Arlington Avenue, allow pedestrians to enter and perch upon benches, while observing whimsical bronze pigeons nearby.
Written by Michelle Montoya
The partnership between PAR Electrical — one of North America’s largest electrical contracting companies — and the City of Reno’s ReTRAC Project began in 2001, when informal discussions took place between the entities’ leaders. This was before local company Harker & Harker, which was established in 1946 to serve the Northern Nevada utility industry, became a division of PAR Electrical in 2002. Jack Harker, president, and Rod Cooper, Nevada branch manager for Granite Construction, were on the ground ﬂoor of the project. From the early days before ReTRAC, PAR worked with Granite leaders to create the electrical infrastructure design of ReTRAC, which included in-trench lighting, landscape lighting, numerous electrical services, communication duct and vault systems, and ground grid installations. The project managers proved they could tackle these daunting tasks and complete them smoothly and
competently. Before trench-digging began, the trafﬁc-signal systems had to be removed along the shoo-ﬂy route — the alternate train route established as construction on the trench progressed. Electrical services were installed for the railroadcrossing warning-gate system, the temporary Amtrak Station, and the dewatering pump station. PAR’s project team was led by Bob Harker, a Harker/PAR employee since 1969 and project manager/project superintendent for ReTRAC. He was supported by a team of dedicated professionals, including Matt Frazer, division manager, who says the project was a partnership from the beginning. “Granite builds big stuff, and they do very well at that,” Frazer says. “We do electrical work, and we’re very good at that.” In the ﬁve years since discussions ﬁrst began, PAR Electrical has installed 16 services, seven miles of communication duct-and-vault systems, 218 landscape ﬁxtures, and 115 in-trench light ﬁxtures for the ReTRAC project.
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L e t t h e c h i p s f a l l } Reno artist Eileen Gay created three stacks of concrete casino chips and three benches along Virginia Street as seating sculptures.
Fellow Reno artist Eileen Gay’s Virginia Street seating sculpture features three stacks of concrete casino chips accompanied by three circular benches embellished with mosaic patterns.
Local metal artist Vo Kemf was inspired by locomotive imagery with a back frame of a deconstructed train with two circular pods/wheels to sit upon.
Painter/sculptor collaborators Joe Zuccarini’s and Jim Zlokovich’s textural metal benches are offset by a skyline mural with vertical pipes lit from the inside.
South Dakota sculptor Ben Victor, known for his Sarah Winnemucca statue at the capital building, chose sandstone for his ﬁve-pod bench located across from the parking garage by the Eldorado Hotel Casino.
Well-known California artist Randall Shiroma’s polished travertine and concrete benches will grace the site near the Amtrak Station on Commercial Row.
Raising the bar “Great cities deserve great art, and great cities have great art,” Fey says. “If you are going to create a major public project, there needs to be an aesthetic quality. Public arts are an important component to a project like ReTRAC … it raises the bar from the ordinary to something quite wonderful.” Fey refers to these public art installations as community touchstones. “Public art allows those in the public realm to have a private moment in a public space,” Fey says. “Its key role is to help you to slow down and notice the piece — whether you like it or not is not as important as the fact that you have slowed down and have had a private moment.”
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Project Statistics 2.25 miles long 54 feet wide 33 feet deep (average) 11 bridges
A modern engineering marvel JACOBS ENGINEERING GROUP BROUGHT OVERSIGHT TO ReTRAC
Excavated material: 781,800 cubic yards Placed Concrete: 162,347 cubic yards
Planning} Leaders at Jacobs helped set ReTRAC into motion.
Cement: 15,555 tons Reinforcing Steel: 28,068 tons Disposed of Regulated Material: 151,809 cubic yards Imported Aggregate: 146,756 tons Decomposed Granite: 15,492 tons Electrical Conduit: 61,270 linear feet Drain Pipe: 42,166 linear feet Form Material: 413,399 square feet Lumber: 118,887 board feet Recycled excavated material as Backﬁll: 240,100 tons Base rock: 29,200 tons Concrete aggregate: 98,800 tons Rock donated to Nature Conservancy: 23,300 tons Clean Fill Material placed at Robb Drive: 406,400 cubic yards 8 of the 11 bridges constructed and open: Evans, Lake, Vine, and Sands Pedestrian to be constructed by the end of September and opened by the end of October
Written by Jennifer MacKay
For more than 55 years, Jacobs Engineering Group has provided professional consultation to large-scope projects worldwide, managing the technical, social, and environmental challenges faced by clients in industries as varied as aerospace, biotechnology, and infrastructure. When Jacobs heard whispers of the proposed $170-million Reno Transportation Rail Access Corridor, it was only natural that the 30,000-employee engineering giant headquartered in Pasadena, Calif., would throw its hat in the ring. An impressive résumé of infrastructure projects in neighboring states, including work on I-15 to prepare Salt Lake City for the 2002 winter Olympics, helped seal the deal. The city of Reno entrusted Jacobs’ civil branch with the enormous responsibility of making sure the ReTRAC project was not derailed by disruption to the many public services with which such a project might predictably interfere. “We contracted with the city to do the oversight,” says Gary Robinson, the project manager for Jacobs Civil, whose direct supervision guided ReTRAC to a smooth conclusion. “We do inspections,
review the materials and methods, and ensure the project gets built to design standards.” Robinson was called to The Biggest Little City from the other side of the globe, where he’d spent years overseeing construction of causeways and highways near the Arabian Gulf. His expertise now was needed in Reno, helping with substantial challenges such as rerouting the Kinder-Morgan fuel pipeline that supplies not only gasoline and diesel fuel to the Reno area, but also jet fuel to the Fallon Naval Air Station. Robinson incorporated Jacobs Engineering’s innovative work-around schedules to buffer environmental and social impacts affecting the daily life of Reno residents while the project was underway. These schedules kept work on the trench consistent throughout Jacobs’ concurrent negotiations on the environmental impact statement, rightof-way easements, and the interests of stakeholders that included the Union Paciﬁc Railroad. Robinson says he takes from ReTRAC a sense of accomplishment at helping to put the Jacobs mark of improvement on a city he found captivating. “Reno? It is completely outstanding,” he says.
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A night to remember} ReTRAC’s partners toasted the project’s completion.
G rand r eceptions R e T R A C ’ S F I N A L E WA S CELEBRATED WITH MUCH FANFARE Written by Linda Fine
ith the completion of ReTRAC, Public Works Director and City Engineer Steve Varela now has time to reﬂect upon the venture’s success. “The project is famous,” he says. “It was an amazing effort and one of the largest public works projects in the history of the city, if not the entire state.” As it neared completion in 2005, public
interest intensiﬁed, and citizens ﬂocked to view the excavation before the tracks were embedded within the tunnel. Even the ofﬁcial grand-opening ceremony and ribbon cutting on Jan. 3, 2006, drew unexpected crowds.
Large turnout For the public tour on Sept. 29, 2005 — dubbed the “Trek the Trench” tour — Varela says 500 people were expected; in fact, more than 2,000 spectators turned out. The project was nearing
completion, but the rail had not yet been laid through the corridor, which presented the general public with a unique opportunity to experience the immense ReTRAC undertaking before actual operations began. They rode through the trench on trolleys, eagerly taking in the project. Varela says he wasn’t surprised at the reception it received. “I felt that once it was done, people would wonder why it wasn’t done before,” he says. While Varela took all the attention in stride, Councilman Dave Aiazzi was caught short. R i b b o n c u t t i n g } dignitaries participate in a traditional opening celebration.
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“I was surprised,” he says. “I know that a lot of people wanted to see the result before the tracks were laid. This was the only opportunity for them to see the ﬁnished project at the track level, and they were amazed at how much work it really was.” Aiazzi likened the public’s interest to the old-fashioned practice of cutting a hole in a fence to allow scrutiny of an on-going construction project. He says that the ﬁnal ribboncutting signiﬁed that the train was no longer running at grade, an amazing feat in most people’s eyes. The ﬁrst train rumbled through the trench on Nov. 18, 2005 — only three years and a few days after breaking ground on Reno’s landmark project.
Developing pride “Support for the project has grown over the years,” says City Manager Charles McNeely. “As people saw work progressing, they were pleased and developed a tremendous sense of pride. Some felt vindicated and knew their early support was put in the right place. They saw that being tenacious about supporting the project was now paying off. I’m happy that this has been such a huge success.” Councilman Dan Gustin is equally bullish when it comes to ReTRAC. “The project means that downtown will be more hospitable,” he says. “We’ve always wanted to be more tourist-friendly. The spirit of downtown will now be greatly enhanced.” O v e r w h e l m i n g s u c c e s s } While 500 people were expected at the opening ceremony, 2,000 excited citizens showed up to ride trolleys through the trench.
G OLDMAN S ACHS THE COMPANY’S MANAGERS RAISED FUNDS AND HELPED THE CITY SAVE MONEY ON RETRAC Written by Jennifer MacKay
In 1998, after decades of wanting to relocate the noisy freight trains chugging their way through town, the city of Reno ﬁnally had a feasible plan to sink two and a half miles of Union Paciﬁc Railroad below ground level for $275 million. In a strategic move, the city appointed global securities and investment-management ﬁrm Goldman, Sachs & Co. to steer the project ﬁnancing in the right direction. By 2002, funding was secured for ReTRAC. The funds would come partially from a 1/8-percent countywide sales tax and a one-percent room tax on downtown hotels. Goldman Sachs helped negotiate $58 million from a settlement with Union Paciﬁc, underwrote an additional $114 million in tax-exempt bonds and helped ﬁnesse another $74 million in federal loans. But $20 million in funding still came from the city via resources not dedicated solely to ReTRAC. Goldman Sachs purchased $50 million in bonds to help retire the federal loan, to provide $20 million to replace that unrestricted City funding and to provide the extra $4 million needed as a local match for additional federal funds, essentially freeing up money for the city to direct toward other downtown redevelopment projects. The ﬁnancial expertise of Goldman Sachs helped the city of Reno complete one of the most notable transportation-infrastructure projects in the nation — without requiring a general-fund pledge. “The project is one of the ﬁnest examples of a public-private partnership done to date in the U.S.,” Jeff Holt, the city’s investment banker and a vice president at Goldman, Sachs & Co., says. “The city successfully brought together such diverse stakeholders as the Union Paciﬁc Railroad, the downtown businesses, the residents of Washoe County and the local partners in the gaming industry to accomplish the largest public works project ever built in Northern Nevada.”
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THANK YOU TO OUR PARTNERS CITIZENS OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CIT Y OF RENO C I T Y O F R E N O P U B L I C W O R K S D I R E C T O R S T E V E VA R E L A C O N D O N - J O H N S O N A S S O C I AT E S , I N C . DOWNTOWN RENO PRESENTS EDAWN PRESIDENT AND CEO CHUCK ALVE Y F OR M E R R E N O M AYOR J E F F G R I F F I N GOLDMAN-SACHS GRANITE CONSTRUCTION J A C O B S E N G I N E E R I N G G R O U P, I N C . MADCON CONSTRUCTION M A RT I N I R O N W OR K S , I N C . N O LT E A N D A S S O C I AT E S PAR ELECTRICAL R E N O C I T Y C O U N C I L M A N D AV E A I A Z Z I RENO CITY COUNCILMAN PIERRE HASCHEFF R E N O C I T Y CO U N C I L M A N D W IG H T D ORTC H R E N O M AYOR R OB E RT C A S H E L L RENO-SPARK S CHA MBER OF COMMER CE CEO HARRY YORK ROSE/GLENN GROUP S C H N A B E L F O U N D AT I O N C O M PA N Y STANTEC TRUCKEE MEADOWS RESIDENTS UNION PACIFIC R AILR OAD
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