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Reno’s ’Spaghetti Bowl’ Rehab Job Running Behind

Sat February 19, 2005 - West Edition
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RENO, NV (AP) Commuters who fret each afternoon in the huge traffic backup on U.S. 395 through Reno will have to put up with the traffic for the rest of the year.

State officials and representatives of Frehner Construction Co. said the $53 million rehabilitation of the Spaghetti Bowl will be finished closer to Christmas than the Fourth of July.

And it’s not only commuters who are upset.

“I have had some serious concerns and am not pleased with the progress of the project,” said Jeff Fontaine, director of the Nevada Department of Transportation. “Our focus now is completing the project as quickly as possible.”

Delays could cost Frehner about $1 million in contract penalties but the state and contractor have agreed on a new construction schedule to complete work before January.

The Spaghetti Bowl is where 395 and Interstate 80 connect. News that a project already under way for 2.5 years won’t be finished until the end of the year wasn’t welcomed by some area motorists.

Spanish Springs resident Stan Zaehringer, who commutes through the Spaghetti Bowl to his job in south Reno daily, told the Reno Gazette-Journal it’s a miserable drive.

“It’s been going on for years now and there’s more delay?” Zaehringer said. “There’s always an excuse.”

Bad weather last month and during various times the previous two winters had a “severe impact” on the project’s progress, Frehner president Mike Pack said. Pack also said there are a number of special events in Reno-Sparks during which construction can’t proceed as another factor.

But transportation officials questioned the company’s overall performance.

“We’re saying it’s a lack of production,” said spokesman Scott Magruder. “It’s just a lack of resources on the job.”

Started in the summer of 2002, what was at the time the largest highway project in Northern Nevada is designed to rejuvenate a major freeway interchange built in the 1970s and used by more than 233,000 vehicles daily.

The project is designed to improve the situation by adding traffic lanes, building some new freeway onramps and offramps and removing others. The project also involves construction of seven miles of sound walls, pavement rehabilitation and a retrofit of bridges for earthquake safety.

When state transportation officials became concerned late in 2004 that Frehner wouldn’t finish the project as planned this July, they were told by company representatives that the job would take until March 2006, Magruder said.

“We said that was unacceptable,” Magruder said. Follow-up discussions resulted in the new target date of December 2005 for the project’s completion.

To meet that goal, Pack said Frehner plan to make several changes to step up production. Crews last week began working six-day weeks on double shifts from 10 to 12 hours long.

Frehner could be liable for penalties of up to $15,000 per day for every day work that continues beyond the contract period, which calls for 670 working days. If the project isn’t done until December, those penalties could reach $1 million, Magruder said.