Soft opening Saturday for I-580; vehicles OK by Aug. 2

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With the grand opening of the new I-580 freeway just a couple of weeks away, several thousand members of the public are expected to show up Saturday to try out the new road between the Mount Rose Junction and the north end of Washoe Valley.

It is the only day bicycles and pedestrians will ever be welcome on the route.

The official ribbon-cutting will be five days later, Aug. 2, when Gov. Brian Sandoval will preside over ceremonies and then drive down the road in a 1913 Pierce-Arrow from Harrah's Auto Collection. He will be joined by a number of other dignitaries and followed by a convoy of Hot August Nights classic cars invited to the celebration.

The actual road opening will occur a week or so later.

Bicyclists will begin heading south on the northbound lanes at 7 a.m. Saturday, with pedestrians and runners following at 7:30 a.m.

Vehicles will be allowed on the southbound lanes beginning at 8 a.m. but Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Magruder said drivers should expect speeds as low at 5 mph.

Cyclists can either do the entire 17-mile round trip or turn around at the big bridge over Galena Creek, about half that distance.

Magruder cautioned that there is no shade along the route so pedestrians, runners and cyclists should bring hats, sunglasses and sunblock, pace themselves and stay hydrated to avoid heat-related hazards.

There will be water stations along the route, but Magruder said visitors should bring extra water just in case.

Pedestrians and cyclists can access the site from the construction access just south of the Mount Rose Exit 56. From Carson City, access is up the Mount Rose highway via the new southbound ramp just west of the Mount Rose bridge at the traffic signal.

There also will be bicycle access from the south end of the stretch at Washoe Valley. Signs and volunteers will help direct bicycle traffic there.

Climbing on the barrier rails - well over 100 feet above the ground in some cases - is not permitted.

During its lengthy construction - nine years - one contractor pulled out because of the difficulty in safely building the huge cathedral arch of Galena Creek Bridge. The new project contractor, Fisher Engineering, hired CC Myers to put up the bridge.

Not only is that structure - 1,725 feet long and soaring more than 300 feet above Galena Creek - the most challenging part of the project; it's the most controversial, especially to Southern Nevadans who describe it as a colossal waste of money that could have been used to reduce the Las Vegas area's traffic congestion.

Altogether, the bridge was listed at nearly $80 million of the total project cost. The original contract for I-580 was $393 million. With change orders, the cost of right of way and design, the total for the project is approaching $550 million, Magruder said.

The project has been a boon to the area's economy, employing upward of 200 construction workers throughout the years of construction.

Magruder said the new freeway should cut six to eight minutes off the commute between Reno and Carson City, in part because there are no on- or off-ramps to slow traffic from Mount Rose to Washoe Valley.


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