Railway commission moves on several fronts

Business at the Nov. 17 meeting of the Tricounty Railway Commission was conducted quickly, with little board discussion or public comment.

Dennis Coyle, project manager with the Department of Transportation, provided the commission with a brief progress report on the department's ongoing effort to secure additional topographical information in connection with the ISTEA portion of the reconstruction effort.

It was decided by NDOT staff that the most cost-effective approach would be to complete the work in-house. Dennis reported that the project area has been flown, the film has been developed and the mapping is under way. This portion of NDOT's work should be completed by Jan. 7, 2000.

The gathering of this additional topographical information will help to accurately locate historic features within the project area, determine the exact limits of the needed rights-of-way and identify access and staging areas along with local sources of fill. The completion of any additional geotechnical work must await the receipt of entry permits from the affected property owners.

Additionally, Dennis reported on the activities of the project's Technical Advisory Committee which is looking for creative and cost-effective ways of "turning negatives into positives." One option that will be studied involves the development of project access roads that conform to the final configuration of county roads. TAC will also investigate the availability of certain new products known as "geotextiles," the use of which may lead to added cost savings.

V&T roadmaster Kim Fagert updated the commission on his discussion with NDOT staff regarding the Virginia & Truckee Railroad's proposal to build approximately 1,300 lineal feet of mainline track from the end of the existing line in Gold Hill to a point near the Belcher Shaft near the Overman Pit. Although the parties have spoken about the extension project in general terms, the absence of the mapping needed to establish an exact alignment has hampered any substantive discussions.

In the meantime, Mr. Fagert has begun identifying sources of construction material. He formally requested permission to use some of the materials donated to the reconstruction project by Sierra Pacific Power in 1996. Valued at approximately $10,000, the materials were removed from the Tracy Generating Station between Reno and Fernley and are currently being stored on property in Storey County.

According to Mr. Fagert, the railroad has sufficient rail to build 800 feet of track and might be able to salvage some additional 90-pound rail from these donated materials. The commission, although predisposed to grant Mr. Fagert's request, postponed its decision pending a review of the matter by its attorney.

On another issue, Carl Cavolick from Lumos and Associates discussed Stantec's request that his company review the exploration plan and testing schedule for the additional geotechnical work authorized by NDOT through the Tricounty Railway Commission.

Due to Lumos' long-standing relationship with the commission, it was Carl's recommendation that the requested services be provided through the commission, subject to a reimbursement arrangement with Stantec. Although it is not anticipated that there will be any inconsistencies between the conclusions reached by the two engineering companies, a clear separation will ensure objectivity and help the parties avoid any potential conflict of interest. The commission took no action on the matter pending a review of the agreement between Lumos and Stantec.

In anticipation that a bill will be introduced during the next legislative session to expand the membership of the Tricounty Railway Commission to include representation from Washoe and Douglas counties, the board was asked to review all legislation affecting the commission and propose any additional changes that might be desirable or appropriate.

One recommendation was to limit Carson City's representation to one elected official and allow for the appointment of a member from the Northern Nevada Railway Foundation to the commission.

Upon a recommendation by the Northern Nevada Railway Foundation, the commission agreed to investigate the feasibility and prudence of seeking funding through the Federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program.

The RRIF program extends loans to projects that will, among other things, promote economic development and/or preserve and enhance rail or intermodal service to small communities and rural areas. Although the qualification requirements may prove to be too onerous, the commission decided to investigate the program further before discarding it as a potential source of funding for reconstruction.


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