Staff studying the potential routes for the new Interstate 11 through Nevada told the state Transportation Board on Monday the route that brings the highway up U.S. 95, through Reno and north on U.S. 395 had the highest ranking.
According to Transportation Planner Sondra Rosenberg, who is managing the study, the second highest ranked route takes the highway from U.S. 95 at Fernley up I-80 to Winnemucca and then north to Oregon.
Two other routes studied by the group used U.S. 93 north from Las Vegas on the eastern side of the state, through Ely and north to Boise, Idaho.
“It’s still early in the process,” Rosenberg told the board headed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, adding that the plan is to bring the issue back to the board “hopefully in August.”
But she said there are numerous other players, including Oregon, California and Idaho, who will be part of the ultimate route selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Rosenberg said the highest benefit comes from connecting Nevada’s two major centers of economic activity — Las Vegas and Reno. She said that is a nationally recognized priority.
“The purpose I dwell on is the economic development link,” said Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki.
He said the idea is to open up access to the West Coast more than just a route north to Canada.
Board member Tom Fransway said he hasn’t heard a thing from his community in Winnemucca, which would get a big economic benefit if I-11 passed through. He said he will raise the issue with his city and county.
Controller Kim Wallin said in a recent tour of White Pine County, officials made it clear they would like to see the highway take the eastern side of Nevada.
Rosenberg said those advocates have been focusing on the lower cost of buying the needed right of way in eastern Nevada.
“It might cost less but the benefit is slightly lower,” she said.
Sandoval urged Rosenberg to contact some of the rural communities. She said she would do so but that there have been extensive efforts to do that already, adding, “I think it would be a difficult case to make that one of the cities on these routes has not been notified.”
Rosenberg said NDOT has been taking public comment throughout the process of analyzing the different routes for the road and that a month-long “virtual forum” opens June 18 so anyone who wishes can add their two-cents to the mix.