RENO — Completion of the Carson City bypass remains among the top five priority projects for the Nevada Department of Transportation, even though Las Vegas-area projects will demand much of the department’s cash and attention.State Transportation Director Rudy Malfabon told a construction industry group Tuesday that the Carson City bypass is one of two Northern Nevada projects listed as priorities by the department and regional transportation executives around the state. “It’s a big priority of mine,” Malfabon said. “Fairview is not a good place to drop that truck traffic.”Although the state is about to open bids for a project to construct the Snyder overpass and complete some utility relocation and drainage work on the next portion of the bypass, the agency doesn’t have a schedule for completion of the stretch from Fairview to U.S. 50 at Spooner Junction.The Snyder overpass work is estimated to carry a $10 million to $12 million price tag, says NDOT spokesman Scott Magruder. The entire Fairview-to-Spooner stretch is estimated to cost somewhere between $80 million and $100 million.The other Northern Nevada project on the state’s priority list is improvement of the heavily traveled intersection of McCarran Boulevard and Pyramid Highway in north Reno.Malfabon was among speakers at the Nevada Infrastructure Concrete Conference, a gathering of about 100 construction company executives at the University of Nevada, Reno.The NDOT director said Southern Nevada projects — including the $1.5 billion “Project Neon” to widen and improve 3.7 miles of Interstate 15 between Sahara and the U.S. 95 interchange in Las Vegas — will demand much of the department’s attention and money in coming years.Project Neon alone is expected to stretch over 20 years, and the department’s priorities in Southern Nevada also include a bypass at Boulder City and freeway improvements in northwest Las Vegas.But Malfabon said the department is launching a new process that weighs a multitude of variables to determine the priorities for spending on highways and bridges.Those variables, he said, range from safety issues to economic-development needs. And the department also pays attention to the need to balance demands from Northern Nevada, Southern Nevada and rural regions.Congressional approval this summer of the federal highway program that’s been dubbed “MAP 21” — that’s short for “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” — assures Nevada highway officials of continued federal assistance for the next couple of years, Malfabon said.But MAP 21 isn’t entirely good news for highway funding in Nevada, said Susan Klekar, who heads the Federal Highway Administration’s operations in the state.The new program doesn’t allow earmarks, those measures that allowed powerful lawmakers such as Sen. Harry Reid to funnel spending to projects in their home states. “We did very well with earmarks, and we will miss that part of it,” Klekar said.On the other hand, she said the new federal highway bill is expected to streamline the process to bring road and bridge projects from blueprints to reality.
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