Western Nevada Development District supports Carson freeway

Dismayed at seeing area highway projects slide down the state's priority list, representatives of seven Nevada counties Tuesday adopted a resolution supporting completion of the Carson City bypass.

The resolution approved by the directors of the Western Nevada Development District pointed out that Highway 395 through Carson City is overloaded, that it serves the seven-county region within the district and that Carson City is contributing $19 million toward the freeway project raised by increasing local gasoline taxes.

Construction of the northern phase of the freeway began in April with realignment of utilities and placement of bridge support structures. But bids for actual completion of the north part of the freeway from Duck Hill to Highway 50 East have been delayed from February 2001 to November 2001.

And the State Board of Transportation last month indicated it might give the completion of Interstate 580 between Reno and Washoe Valley a higher priority than completing the south phase of the Carson City freeway from Highway 50 East to Spooner Junction.

"All of a sudden, priorities change on a dime with very little notice," Carson City supervisor Robin Williamson, whose duties include sitting on the WNDD board, told fellow directors Tuesday.

"We thought we were talking about bike paths and landscaping and all of a sudden we're fighting for the project.

"Suddenly we're in competition on the priority list with I-580 and there's no cost-benefit analysis or anything showing why."

The transportation board will meet in September to determine the 2001 statewide funding priorities. Gov. Kenny Guinn, a statutory member of the board, has asked for a traffic study by then showing where the traffic goes when it reaches Highway 50.

Lyon County commissioner and WNDD director Leroy Goodman said slipping down the state priority list is a fate not limited to large projects.

"We have had projects on the list that address safety problems in Lyon and Churchill counties that show up scheduled on the Nevada Department of Transportation's quarterly lists. Then they are delayed repeatedly with no explanations," Goodman said.

"The I-80 business loop in Fernley was supposed to be bid in April. Now it's pushed back to February."

Churchill County Commissioner Gwen Washburn described a decades-long delay in that county.

"Our four-lane project started 20 years ago as a priority project with the NDOT. They built the first five miles one year and promised to complete the last three the next year. We're still waiting," Washburn said.

"We finally got back on the list again and we got all the lights, the intersections and the turn lanes planned and we were set for March 2000. Then we got a letter that they had not acquired all the right of way - in 20 years they hadn't acquired all the right of way.

"So now we're set for March 2001."

In actions they anticipate could increase local governments' say in transportation decisions, the directors also voted to request a formal process between the development district and the transportation department for transportation planning and programming and to set up on a test basis an advisory committee of local transportation officials from the seven member counties.

The district encompasses Carson City and Pershing, Churchill, Storey, Lyon, Mineral and Douglas counties.

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