Design changes to the Carson City freeway's southern interchange at Highway 395 and Spooner Summit will save the Nevada Department of Transportation between $10 million and $20 million, officials said Thursday.
A $5.8 million jury verdict in October, which valued land owned by John Serpa at the intersection more than twice the amount NDOT expected, forced the agency to reconsider the interchange's design.
Scott Magruder, NDOT spokesman, said the department had set aside $6.2 million for right-of-way acquisition and couldn't afford more uncertain right-of-way costs.
"We couldn't guess what right-of-way would cost, and we didn't want to go and find out," Magruder said.
The previous design was a complex swirl of lanes weaving between Highway 395, Highway 50 and Carson Street. The new design is a slimmer, single-point urban interchange, which is comparable to the intersections of Interstate 80 at Keystone and at Pyramid Way in Reno.
While still conceptual, the trimmed design puts the intersection into existing right-of-way. NDOT needs only 17 acres of land from the Bureau of Land Management to finish intersection right-of-way acquisitions.
Rather than having to buy land for frontage roads on the east and west sides of Carson Street, those roads were eliminated.
Residents in the area were concerned that frontage road traffic at the base of the intersection would have to go south to Jacks Valley Road before drivers could turn north onto Carson Street.
The design provides for a continuous traffic flow west up Highway 50 rather than letting traffic flow uninterrupted south towards Douglas County. Traffic exiting south onto Highway 395 would stop at a light.
Carson Deputy City Manager Dan St. John said the free-flowing traffic to and from Lake Tahoe will give the freeway a sense of continuity.
"The fact that the freeway doesn't continue (south) at the Spooner junction isn't of great concern to Carson City," St. John said. "Our interests are getting people to the south part of Carson City and getting people conveniently on and off the freeway. Easing the whole traffic flow around the city is our primary interest.
"We feel the new design does meet the needs of Carson City and, potentially, the commercial development of South Carson Street."
All southbound traffic flowing through two stoplights - one at Highway 50 and another at Clear Creek Road - is one disadvantage of the new design, Magruder said. The design does give residents access to Carson Street at Clear Creek Road, creates less impact during construction and can be improved later if traffic warrants it.
One change planned for 2028 is a $32 million flyover ramp which will take southbound traffic over the Clear Creek stoplight and deposit it onto South Carson Street.
The southern leg of the freeway has a $160 million price tag, but so far no funding.
"There's still no funding, but we're still determined," Magruder said. "We're not going to build half of a freeway."
Bids for Phase 1A of the northern leg are expected to go out Dec. 9. Construction is slated on the northern leg, which extends from Lakeview Hill to Highway 50 East, from 2000 to 2003. The second freeway leg from Highway 50 East to the Spooner Summit Junction is expected to begin in 2004 and be finished in 2007.