With construction of the northern half of the Carson freeway underway, Nevada Department of Transportation engineers are finalizing plans for the longer and more expensive southern half.
When completed, the bypass - costing more than $260 million - will provide through traffic with a freeway around Carson City's downtown from Arrowhead Drive in the north to the Spooner Summit interchange in the south. Up to 50,000 cars and trucks drive through downtown Carson City every day and that number will grow significantly by the time the bypass is finished.
When completed, up to 40,000 cars a day will be able to avoid downtown but officials estimate there will still be about 20,000 or more vehicles using Carson Street daily.
Ames Construction is now building the roadway which will complete the bypass from Arrowhead Drive to Highway 50 at the Pinon Plaza Hotel-Casino. It includes interchanges at the base of Lakeview Hill, Arrowhead Drive and College Parkway as well as the overpass bridge across Highway 50. It also includes grade separation bridges carrying the freeway over Northgate, Emerson and Northridge. The project will take until mid 2006 to complete.
Construction of the roadway south of Highway 50 probably won't begin until 2006. State transportation Project Engineer Jim Gallegos said the next phase will extend the freeway south through the Lompa Ranch property, past Fifth Street to Fairview Drive. He said NDOT hopes to complete the entire project by 2010 but that the exact order of construction and the timeline haven't yet been finalized.
He said unlike the northern half, the southern half of the bypass will all be built at or below ground level. Instead of elevating the freeway, he said cross streets will all pass over it on bridges at Fifth, Fairview, Koontz Lane, Clearview and, as the bypass turns west, at Snyder Avenue.
"Everything goes over the freeway in the southern phase," he said. "We're keeping the freeway as low as possible."
Gallegos said only when the bypass reaches Spooner and South Carson Street will it rise above existing roads.
That means the only access south of Highway 50 on and off the new bypass will be at Fairview and South Carson Street at Spooner junction.
Gallegos said work is already in progress to install huge drainage culverts from Highway 50 south through the Lompa Ranch property the state is buying. Water collected from that marshy area will be drained away eventually to the Carson River.
A new bridge will relocate Fifth Street 100 yards north of it's existing route and carry the street over the freeway, rejoining Fifth Street's existing route just west of the city water treatment plant. Gallegos said the city's linear ditch bike path will also follow that route and connect with paths leading bikers and pedestrians to the river. But there will be no freeway access at Fifth Street.
The road then heads south to Fairview Drive between Edmonds and the Snap-On Tools distribution center.
Gallegos said a full interchange at Fairview will allow access in all directions but won't displace either Snap-On or other existing structures.
"We're actually going to improve the access for Snap-On Tools with our project," he said. "It'll make it nice for their trucks on and off the freeway."
Carson City, he said, is planning to expand Fairview to four lanes to accommodate growing traffic loads there.
From Fairview, the freeway will head south parallel to and just west of Edmonds. It will pass under both Koontz Lane and Clearview Drive before swinging west just north of the Edmonds Sports Complex.
With the exception of the Lompa Ranch - which is in litigation in Carson District Court - the state already owns nearly all the land it needs to that point.
"There is some residential there we're going to be impacting," he said pointing to houses near Snyder. "But they've known about it for some time."
The lawsuit over how much the state should pay for the Lompa Ranch will be settled by a trial in June.
Heading west, the bypass will cross beneath Snyder between Center and Silver Sage before it reaches South Carson Street and rejoins Highway 50.
Altogether, Gallegos said the southern half of the project will cost an estimated $160 million. Added to the cost of the northern half, that brings the total price for the freeway to $260 million. Gallegos said those are current estimates and could change by the time construction contracts are signed.
He said the Nevada Department of Transportation is meeting with its own engineers, contractors and other experts later this month to start ironing out the order of construction and a schedule.