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Nevada Cashes in With $300M Job

Sat July 01, 2000 - West Edition
Suzanne B. Bopp

When there’s only road that travels through town, it’s inevitable that traffic will be a nightmare. It’s safe to bet that Carson City, NV, drivers don’t look forward to encountering some 40,000 cars that travel U.S. 395 through the center of the city each day.

About 20 years ago, it was envisioned that a freeway would be needed to bypass the city, and also take off some of the heavy truck traffic, said Scott Magruder, public information officer, Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT). That vision is now being realized in a $300-million project, with funds coming from Carson City, the state of Nevada and the federal government. The new freeway of approximately 12.8 kilometers (8 mi.), from U.S. 50 East to the southern terminus near U.S. 50 West, will allow travelers to drive on the outskirts of — instead of through — Carson City.

Construction began in early April. The work will be done in two phases, and completion is still 10 years off. During Phase 1A — which is currently underway and is expected to take 18 months — there will be bridge construction at College Parkway, Emerson, Northgate and Arrowhead, and some storm drain installed. Phase 1B, which will be advertised for bids early in 2001, is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2003. This will involve installing storm drain from College Parkway to Lompa Ranch; bridges at U.S. 50, Carmine and U.S. 395; and soundwalls and other traffic items. Phase 2 is still under review and subject to change; the plan is to advertise it in 2004 and complete it in 2008.

Frehner Construction Inc., based in Las Vegas, is the contractor for Phase 1A, a $14-million project. Randy Evans, project manager, Frehner Construction said crews are using 90-metric-ton (100 ton) trucks and a Komatsu 750 excavator to move 32,000 square meters (400,000 sq. yds.) of dirt in all.

Others involved with the project include: WRC Nevada Inc., the consultant engineers responsible for drainage, erosion control and water quality; PBS&J, the consultant engineers responsible for geometric design, structural design of bridges, ITS, survey, public awareness and project scheduling. Subconsultants include: Harding Lawson Associates, in charge of geotechnical engineering; Jeff Codega Planning/Design Inc., responsible for aesthetics; Parsons Transportation Group, responsible for structural design of walls and traffic control; and Randy Bowling Consulting, for management of the public awareness program.

Many government agencies also have roles in the project, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Highway Administration, the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Division of Environmental Protection, the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State Historic Preservation Office.

Though there are no species listed as threatened or endangered in the area, construction was delayed because of a rare butterfly, the Wandering Skipper, which was found in the corridor near Lompa Lane. NDOT contracted the University of Nevada at Reno to conduct field surveys and genetic analysis so they could better assess possible impacts of the freeway on its habitat. “It had the potential of moving the project to a whole different area,” said Magruder. “But then they found the butterfly in other areas.”

NDOT nevertheless proposed off-site mitigation for disturbing the habitat. It offered to fund the conservation of a suitable habitat site off the Pyramid Lake Highway near the Winnemucca Ranch Road, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accepted.

The freeway also will impact some existing wetlands. For this too, off-site mitigation was proposed and accepted. The “Wetlands Bank,” south of Washoe Lake, was built by NDOT for this purpose. The site includes wells and pumping stations to insure wetlands are perpetuated, even in times of drought.

In addition to a freeway, this also is a major drainage project, which will result in five major detention basins, three sediment basins, one large regional water quality basin, and a series of channels, box culverts and pipes. This all represents years of planning; the idea is to provide drainage not only to protect the freeway improvements, but also flood control benefits for Carson City and water quality improvements throughout the drainage system.

Other improvements will include:

• 12-foot high soundwalls built along the corridor for the benefit of adjacent homes and businesses;

• Single point interchanges, which reduce the amount of right of way that needs to be acquired, will be built. These require traffic to come to a single point under the freeway where one light controls all directions.

• A roundabout at the Arrowhead structure, with no light, as there is not a lot of traffic getting on and off there.

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