Gov. Kenny Guinn told a group of retirees Tuesday it's not politically feasible to shift money from the I-580 project to build the southern half of the Carson bypass.
"If we had the money today, we still couldn't start that second half of the bypass for two years," Guinn told the National Association of Retired Federal Employees. He said not only is the project still in the planning stages, it must be designed and a variety of hurdles including environmental permits and federal emergency management approvals cleared.
"That money's not going to sit there two years," Guinn said.
He said the political and practical reality is that the money would be reallocated to one of many badly needed projects near Las Vegas and that the money for the I-580 project would no longer be there.
Guinn said the Nevada Transportation Board is expected to approve a compromise plan today that delays the I-580 project slightly to free up money that effectively commits the state Department of Transportation to fund the southern half of the Carson City bypass.
It does that, in effect, by making money available to buy more rights of way south of Highway 50 and by funding construction of a bridge over Highway 50.
"That's what Carson City needs more than anything," he said. "Once that bridge comes over, that shows a real commitment to build the southern half."
The compromise involving NDOT, Carson City and Washoe Regional Transportation officials was made possible because the latest estimates show enough highway fund revenues coming in to fund both of those $300 million projects. Officials say the deal will get the bypass completed by 2010 while allowing I-580 to go forward as well.
The issue heated up when Carson officials protested the high priority for the I-580 project, which would extend U.S. 395 south from Geiger Grade to the north end of Washoe Valley, making the entire road from Reno to Carson City a freeway. City officials said the bypass is more critical and that building just half of it would do little to relieve traffic through the center of town.
They charged that the I-580 project was moved ahead of the bypass on the priority list.
Former Mayor Marv Teixeira said NDOT promised that, if Carson City kicked in $19 million in gas tax money, the entire bypass would be completed by 2006. He said money that should fund the bypass was now slated for I-580, breaking the promise to Carson City.
Minutes from a Nov. 21 1996, Carson supervisors meeting where the bypass-gas tax deal was approved, however, paint a different picture.
In those minutes, NDOT's Susan Martinovich tells supervisors the entire bypass project will take until sometime between 2008 and 2010. The current estimate is 2010.
The minutes say Supervisor Greg Smith, who was city Regional Transportation Commission chairman at the time, "emphasized that the NDOT Board of Directors had not guaranteed that the entire length would be constructed within this timeframe."
And those minutes make it clear the deal was focused on construction of the northern half of the bypass. Martinovich told supervisors funding of the southern half of the project was not guaranteed but dependent on decisions at the state level.
Then-supervisor Tom Tatro referred to the deal as very good for the city because it was getting a $78 million project for a contribution of just $19 million. The estimated cost of the northern half of the bypass in 1996 was $78 million.
IF YOU GO:
What: State Transportation Board
When: 9 a.m. today
Where: Legislative Building Room 1214