RENO, Nev. - Driving on freeways in Reno and Sparks can be a nightmare, particularly during rush hour where Interstate 80 meets U.S. 395 in a looping snarl known as the Spaghetti Bowl.
To ease driving woes, the Nevada Department of Transportation has launched a study to look at ways to ease the traffic problems on I-80 and U.S. 395 for the next 30 years.
For this study, NDOT is looking at U.S. 395 from Cold Springs to the Mount Rose Highway and at I-80 from Verdi to Vista Boulevard.
At least one meeting in February or March will solicit comments from the public on problem areas and possible solutions. But NDOT is taking telephone calls and written comments now.
''It's critical to the community because the freeway system is the backbone of all the regional travel,'' said Greg Krause, director of planning for the Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission that is working closely with NDOT on the study.
''It carries approximately 50 percent of all of our miles of travel and we have to make sure it is improved to meet our future transportation demands,'' Krause said.
Carl Wojtkowitak of Sparks also sees the Spaghetti Bowl as the major menace to smooth traffic flow.
''If people would learn to merge in traffic at the proper speed limit, there wouldn't be a problem,'' Wojtkowitak told the Reno Gazette-Journal. ''They're still using highways designed back in the '60s when Nevada's population was still small.''
NDOT has improvements planned for the Spaghetti Bowl in the next seven years that will address problems like that.
The agency wants to add more lanes to the ramps connecting eastbound I-80 to southbound U.S. 395 and northbound U.S. 395 to westbound I-80.
And to solve the problem of cars entering westbound I-80 from Victorian Avenue in Sparks and battling for position with cars trying to leave westbound I-80 for U.S. 395, the ramp for cars leaving the interstate will be built over the ramp for cars entering I-80.
U.S. 395 north of the Spaghetti Bowl to North McCarran Boulevard and possibly into Golden Valley is in for some major improvements, too. NDOT expects to expand it to six lanes within the next seven years.
But NDOT wants to look at a more radical concept. Since the traffic crunch is southbound in the morning and northbound in the evening, NDOT wants to consider allowing the direction of traffic on the middle two lanes to change. That could allow for four southbound lanes in the morning when southbound traffic is heaviest and four northbound lanes in the evening.
Rod Lewison of Sparks said the Spaghetti Bowl is a problem, but he hopes people don't overlook the problems of U.S. 395 in the south Reno area around Meadowood Mall.
Even with a planned new interchange for Meadowood Mall, that area has too much traffic, Lewison said. And not just in the holiday season.
''Too many people. Too many cars for the roads that are available,'' Lewison said. ''All because of the growth going on in the south.''
Lewison said while adding six lanes to U.S. 395 north of the Spaghetti Bowl will ease congestion, ''I don't think it will get rid of our cars.''