Despite criticisms leveled in the past against the Nevada Department of Transportation by certain project proponents, at the last meeting of the Tri-County Railway Commission, an unprecedented number of kudos were extended to NDOT staff.
Commissioners were pleased by the thoroughness of a report prepared by Senior Road Designer Dennis Coyle, which identified and evaluated all of the alternative alignments around the Overman Pit on the basis of expense. At least one alternative route (the so-called Caledonia Alignment) was eliminated strictly based on cost.
Although plans, specifications and a more precise cost estimate will be available by the end of May on the number one alignment choice (the original Cemetery Crossing), the evaluation of alternate routes west of the pit will continue. The feasibility of developing an alignment using balanced dirt or by creating a hillside bench through controlled blasting is being discussed with experts in the field.
Reporting on the status of the geotechnical work, Dennis advised the commission that the method for monitoring cultural resources has been established. Once a final alignment has been selected, the environmental assessment will be completed so an application can be filed for entry onto public lands. This filing date should coincide with the delivery of the final cost estimates for the construction of the segment of the route under NDOT's jurisdiction.
In other business, Kim Fagert, of the Gold Hill Historical Association, reported on his continuing discussions with NDOT concerning the association's proposal to construct approximately 1,300 lineal feet of mainline track from the end of the existing track in Gold Hill to a point near the Belcher Shaft.
In order for construction to begin on this segment, a precise point of conversion must be established. Although the use of federal enhancement dollars severely limits its flexibility, NDOT agreed to investigate the option of contracting out a portion of the reconstruction work to the association in the event private efforts to raise capital to fund the construction of the Gold Hill section independently of the department fails.
Even though as a contractor it would have to abide by Federal Highway Administration standards, it is possible that the association's involvement could result in some significant cost savings.
In response to a request by the Northern Nevada Railway Foundation, the commission agreed to place $1,500 into its budget to reimburse the foundation for the cost of updating the economic impact figures contained in the railroad project's 1994 feasibility study. These figures reflect the extent to which the project will infuse capital directly into the regional economy during and after construction and are an important tool in the ongoing search for funding.
With the passage of proposition 1A in California opening the door to increased competition from Indian gaming, we must rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of economic diversification. Now, more than ever, we need people within the private and public sectors to support the V reconstruction effort.
In the last session of the Legislature, this vitally important economic development project nearly lost its funding because of a projected shortfall in revenues. Now that we anticipate a budget surplus of $155 million, it would be altogether fitting for the state to allocate whatever resources are necessary to ensure the expedited completion of a tourism project that will help decrease Nevada's economic vulnerablity.