Road work could bring new jobs to Northern Nevada this summer

Major road construction projects in the Reno-Sparks area may get started this summer and fall if a voter-approved advisory question enjoys a speedy and successful trip through the upcoming state Legislature.

That's welcome news to highway builders who otherwise see little work on the horizon, particularly after the cash-strapped state government put major projects on hold.

An advisory measure approved in November by Washoe County voters would increase funding for the Regional Transportation Commission by raising the gas tax to adjust for inflation in the costs of building streets and highways.

If the Legislature gives its OK, the RTC expects to spend $250 million during the next three years or so, says Greg Krause, the soon-to-retire executive director of the Regional Transportation Commission.

That spending on roads would generate about 3,000 construction jobs, RTC estimates.

Kyle Larkin, manager of construction for Granite Construction, says all northern Nevada road and highway builders are being pinched this year and that legislative approval of the RTC's funding measure has the potential to greatly impact regional construction and subsequent employment.

"It is very important. I think that it is going to get those projects put in place early and potentially create jobs in our community as early as May of this year," Larkin says. "We have some good backlog in place that will last us another year or two locally, but if it doesn't pass it will have an impact on everyone's budgets."

Among the priority projects proposed by the RTC are:

- Construction of a Meadowwood interchange complex at $45 million to $50 million.

- Widening of Vista Boulevard to six lanes from Los Altos to Wingfield Springs at $20 million.

- Widening McCarran Boulevard from West Fourth Street to West Seventh Street at $64 million.

Additionally, the Regional transportation Commission has suggested working with the Nevada Department of Transportation to spur construction on northbound U.S. 395 from Moana Lane to the Spaghetti Bowl. Adding a lane to the section of freeway is estimated at $70 million to $90 million, NDOT spokesman Scott Magruder says. Although the engineering of the project is completed, the state doesn't have any money to build it.

The RTC's Krause says with successful legislation the earliest the RTC could award construction contracts is late April or early May.

The vote by Washoe County voters in November wasn't binding " just advisory " and that's why RTC now needs the Legislature's approval. Larkin says Granite isn't banking on legislative approval of the ballot question and that it still will be a down year for area road and highway contractors.

"Everyone is feeling budget cuts; we are not alone in that. We are interested in seeing what a federal stimulus package brings " we don't know what it might bring for Nevada, but I don't really see a turnaround for us until next year."

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