NDOT to purchase bypass parcels

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The Nevada Transportation Board voted Tuesday to condemn and purchase four parcels that will nearly complete the right of way needed for the northern half of the Carson City bypass.

One is the nearly 29,000-square-foot former site of Atkins House of Carpet along U.S. 395 at the north end of Carson City. The other three are located just north of Highway 50 near Lompa Lane and Northridge Drive. The biggest is 5.5 acres.

Transportation spokesman Scott Magruder said that leaves "a couple of small slivers" of land for the state to buy to complete the right of way north of Highway 50.

The first phase is already well under construction. These purchases are for the next phase, which will cost $95 million and complete the bypass to Highway 50 -- including building the bridge over that highway.

The board also adopted a master plan for landscape and aesthetics for the state's highway system which includes a state commitment to put up to $2.5 million a year into making Nevada highways more attractive. The plan calls for at least 3 percent of each roadway project to be dedicated to making the project more visually attractive.

"It defines the vision and policies for integrating landscaping and aesthetics into highway projects," said Assistant Transportation Director Susan Martinovich. "It brings the public into the process and sets guidelines for funding."

Gov. Kenny Guinn conceded the plan may result in less money being available for the projects themselves, but he said it's well worth it to make sure projects aren't eyesores.

The masterplan also encourages local governments to match state funding for visual improvements on highway projects.

And it includes local officials as well as environmental groups, citizens, businessmen and others in developing standards for any given project or stretch of road that would be followed in aesthetic projects.

NDOT Director Tom Stephens also gave the board headed by Guinn an update on the Hoover Dam bridge project. He said the federal government is expected to eventually cover all but $20 million from Nevada and a like amount from Arizona when the bridge is built. It will cost an estimated $236 million and span the Colorado River several miles downstream from Hoover Dam.

The project was moved up in priority after the events of Sept. 11 when fear of an attack on the structure caused officials to ban truck traffic from Hoover Dam. Stephens said initial work to move electric power towers will begin in October.

He told the board bids will be opened Thursday on one of the biggest road projects of the summer -- reconstructing the "spaghetti bowl" in Reno. That is the intersection of U.S. 395 and Interstate 80.

The work will cost $53.2 million.

Stephens said there is no way to avoid traffic jams during the work because "several hundred thousand" cars use that freeway complex each day.


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