Officials with the V&T Railway reconstruction project will start taking bids today for work on a new phase of track that will carry a tourist train 18 miles from Virginia City to Carson City.
The four and a half mile section, expected to cost about $7 million, will run from American Flat in Storey County south to Mound House in Lyon County. About a mile and a half from Gold Hill to the Overman Pit was finished in 2005.
Bidding for the new phase will be open in four to five weeks.
Members of the Nevada Commission for the reconstruction of the V&T Railway, a state board, praised the announcement.
Marv Teixeira, a commissioner and mayor of Carson City, said the project has been a "tough go" so far, but being able to open the new section for bids is a significant achievement.
Initially, bidding was scheduled to start in late July, but confusion over paperwork with federal transportation officials delayed the process.
Delays like this have been common in the project, in part because before any land can be built on, the commission has to buy the land, have it donated or get it through eminent domain.
After that, workers have to make sure that the site is compliant with state and federal standards. The railway can't, for instance, damage certain historical or environmental sites.
Bob Hadfield, commission chairman, said opening the new phase for bid was a "monumental" step in a project that was started in 1993 by Lyon County, Storey County and Carson City.
Another achievement for the project, however, is behind schedule.
Last month, Hadfield said he expected to have an agreement ready to buy the Virginia and Truckee Railroad Co., which runs a two-and-half mile private railroad from Virginia City south to Gold Hill.
In 1996, the company won a contract to operate the entire rail from Virginia City to Carson City. Last year, however, commissioners chose Oakdale, Calif.-based Sierra Railroad Co. to operate the railway, saying the project is too big for the first company.
On Monday, after Hadfield told the commission he had "no new information" about an agreement, commissioner Bonnie Weber pointed out that "at the last meeting, didn't we say we would have new information or some other action would take place today?"
Hadfield referred her to Teixeira who said, as he understood it, the company still had to review the agreement with its board.
Tom Gray, son of company owner Bob Gray, has said in interviews and at past meetings that the commission was trying to push his father's company into an unfair deal.
Run by a nine-person commission, construction for the 19th-century revival V&T Railway is funded by state grants, private donations and revenue from room and sales taxes in Carson City and Storey County.
It is expected to cost $54 million and be finished by 2011. About $40 million has been raised so far, including $21 million from Carson City.
Since work started in 2004, the completion date has been pushed back at least two years and estimated costs have risen by millions of dollars.
• Contact reporter Dave Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.