Governor Guinn pleased with deal reached on bypass project

Gov. Kenny Guinn says everyone involved in the debate over the Carson City bypass project has done exactly what he needed them to do - work something out.

The state, Carson City and Washoe County officials announced a deal Thursday they say will get the southern leg of the Carson City bypass going by 2003 without interfering with other projects.

When the issue came up at the July Transportation Board meeting, there was a dispute with Carson City officials over whether the freeway between Reno and Carson City, I-580, or the second phase of the bypass through Carson City should be first on the state's priority list. Carson officials said the I-580 project should be done second and argued that is what they understood would happen when they approved a gas tax hike to help fund it in 1996.

State transportation officials said the two projects weren't an "either, or" package and that Carson was never promised the southern leg of the bypass would come before other Northern Nevada projects.

Guinn told Transportation Director Tom Stephens and the other parties their job was to work something out rather than present the board with the dispute. He told Stephens to bring him and the rest of the board "a solution instead of a problem" at the September meeting.

"Now they have a recommendation that has been agreed upon by all parties that will be presented to the next board," Guinn said.

Guinn said that gives the Transportation Board what it needs to take a vote at its Sept. 20 meeting.

The compromise was also applauded by state Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, who helped broker the deal.

"What this proposal does is fund the bridge over Highway 50 in 2002 and start construction on Phase 2 (of the Carson freeway) in 2003," he said.

Amodei credited transportation officials including Stephens with finding ways to make it financially possible and Washoe County officials for not making the issue a battle between the bypass and I-580.

The key element, said Amodei, is that gas tax projections are coming in higher than originally anticipated.

"The concern three months ago was that gas tax revenues in the north wouldn't support both projects," he said. "As it turns out, NDOT's gas-tax projections for the next 10 years for the north are in an adequate amount to pursue both projects."

Guinn said that means the deal doesn't strip money from other badly needed projects around the state. He said it makes it easier for the board - which includes himself, the attorney general, controller and lieutenant governor - to support.

"I think there has been certainly some misunderstanding that money would come to one project or the other," Guinn said. "It's not the same money."

Amodei made that point as well, saying the bypass isn't in competition with the I-580 project.

He said the compromise gets Carson City what it most needs.

"The symbolism is that bridge across Highway 50," he said. "Because if they were going to stop, Highway 50 would be a good place and we don't want them stopping. This is a commitment once that bridge is over Highway 50."

"We never had a deal where Carson City had the ability to control when and how other projects in the state are pursued," he said. "This takes care of our issue."


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