No matter how you look at it, I-580 is an ugly project

It has been three years since we have seen the splendor of our Sierra Nevada Mountain Ranges blessed with manna from Heaven - the pure white icy shavings we call snow that drapes over the mountainsides with angelic grace. So disarming in its divine beauty.


Even among all of that beauty, when you live someplace long enough, things that you dislike become lost in the scenery until you are reminded of their presence. But that doesn't mean the area of ugliness has disappeared. Sort of like having a growth or a wart on an otherwise beautiful face.


Recently, my best friend from Upstate New York came for a long weekend visit. He loves it here. As we were driving north toward Reno on Highway 395, he was looking out of the car window, absorbed by the reverence of our landscape. "John, what's that?" he asked. I looked at him. "What's what?" "What's that?" he asked again, this time pointing a finger to "that." "That," as he called it, was the wart on the otherwise beautiful face. The tumor erupting from pristine flesh. "That" was "Stonehenge" - the beginning stages of the proposed bridge and 8.5 miles of road from Mount Rose to Washoe Valley that pass as architectural ruins. I had been reminded of its presence, and of its ugliness on the beauteous face of our landscape.


I never wrote about it before. There were other things to talk about. But now that I have been reminded, it is time. What an idiotic project! A project unboxed like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle that has been left on an antique table, gathering dust and hiding the ornate beauty of the table top. But even though the project has been apparently stalled because of mud and cold weather, it is not its unfinished status that disturbs me. It's the fact that it exists at all.


This is a project that started because our state was obviously bored enough at the time to listen to the chatter of a sort of weekly "bridge" party, and its exclamations of traffic disturbance up and down highway 395. Too much noise. Too many cars. Too many trucks. Too many fatal accidents. Too many brainy ideas on how to waste money and Northern Nevada's greatest gift of all: natural beauty. If the perception is that there are far too many fatal accidents on 395 going through Washoe into Reno at 50 mph, then what should we expect with the new I-580 roadway at 65 mph? Or is there a governing party that believes that maybe cars will be able to escape the danger of fatal accidents by driving faster?


So the puzzle box has been taken off the closet shelf and the "bridge" party has begun piecing together a travel route that runs parallel with Northern Nevada's most scenic primary roadway, serving no purpose other than to throw a bucket of black paint on the natural majesty of our mountainside, totally obliterating the view of Mount Rose and Slide Mountain, which are symbolically set against the sky beyond the pass on the west side of 395, not to mention the smaller foothills that will serve as natural support beams for the bridge. An original painting by Monet placed on a rooftop for pigeons to use as a public restroom.


As far as money goes (and goes and goes and goes), the state has begun to make a solid comeback in gross taxable sales. After suffering the first two months of the new fiscal year with losses formidable enough to make God Himself want to move, the state rebounded in September with a modest fractional increase in gross taxable sales, and then strummed a high note in October with a gain of $163,026,137 and 4.3 percent, but the state is still behind $250,825,562 and 1.5 percent, fiscal year-to-date (July 2007-October 2007). And even though a project like "Stonehenge" is bonded with majority federal and some state funds, money is money, and this money could be best used elsewhere - all $393 million of it. When someone or some business is broke, but spends money just because it has been set aside in a separate fund for vacation, it doesn't change the ownership of the money or the financial status of the spender. And, money aside, the "Stonehenge" project is a scenic disaster. In fact, it is a disgrace even referring to it as "Stonehenge." The real "Stonehenge" - a prehistoric circle of standing stone structures in Southern England that dates back to Neolithic age - are iconic wonders. Our own version of "Stonehenge" just makes me wonder.




• John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at jdimambro@nevadaappeal.com.

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