Fed. Admin. Peters Tours $264M Train Trench Job in Reno, NV

Sat August 21, 2004 - West Edition

RENO, NV (AP) Federal Highway Administrator Mary E. Peters hailed Reno’s $264 million train trench on Aug. 6 as a model of innovation and cost-cutting that will help change the way large transportation projects are approached elsewhere.

“It says to other areas, this is what you can do,” Peters said over the clamor of earth movers and big-rig dump trucks.

“You’ve literally broken new ground here,” she said after being briefed by city officials.

The Reno Transportation Rail Access Corridor began in late 2002 to address the problems of trains that rumble through the busy downtown.

The 2.1 mile trench, at 50 feet wide and 33 feet deep, will eliminate 11 street-level railroad crossings.

With rail traffic expected to double from 15 to 30 trains per day over the next decade, officials say the trench will enhance public safety, reduce noise and pollution and spur urban renewal. Completion is scheduled for 2006.

Peters said the project is the first in Nevada to use a design-build concept authorized by Congress two years ago. The process allows design and construction phases to occur simultaneously, saving time and money.

Traditionally, projects are put to bid for design, then rebid for the construction phase.

Steve Varela, Reno’s public works director, said the streamlined process has shaved more than a year off construction time and saved $15 million so far.

Officials also credited the Transportation Infrastructure Financing Innovation Act for allowing the project to proceed quickly.

Enacted about five years ago, it authorizes low-interest loans to “jump start” transportation projects, Peters said.

“It allows us to fund up to one third of the cost to a local entity,” Peters said. “Then revenues they’ve identified to finance the project can accrue over time.”

Reno borrowed $73.5 million from the federal program.