In a few days, a huge conveyor belt system will begin moving thousands of tons of dirt from the south end of the Carson City Bypass alongside U.S. 50 toward Spooner Summit.
Will Hellickson of Road and Highway Builders said the system will dramatically reduce the impact of the final phase of the bypass project on drivers on U.S. 395 and Highway 50. Without it, he said, the only way to remove the dirt from the right of way would be by the truckload.
“If we had to do this with hauling trucks, it would be 200 loads a day for 150 days,” Hellickson said.
And every one of those truckloads would have to cross the roadway, disrupting traffic. Instead, he said, traffic was disrupted for only one week while huge culverts were installed under Highway 395 and the on-ramp heading up Highway 50.
The conveyor belt system is being installed through those culverts.
Its job will be to carry the huge mound of dirt the company has been piling at the end of the bypass more than 2,800 feet up Spooner Summit where it will be stored. Eventually, some of it will be needed to help build the freeway interchange that will replace the signaled intersection connecting the bypass to both Highway 50 and U.S. 395 at Carson Street.
Hellickson said the system will be able to move 1,000 tons of dirt an hour.
Even running 16 hours a day, the job will take six months. To prepare the final stretch of the bypass between Fairview Drive and the south end they have to move 750,000 cubic yards of dirt up that hill.
To reduce potential complaints from area residents, each section of the conveyor also has a water sprayer system to wet down the dirt enough to reduce dust.
And when the work is completed, the culverts will become part of the drainage system serving the roadway.
Hellickson said the company has used the conveyor system numerous times to reduce traffic disruption in an era when most road construction these days is in urban areas that are already built up
The dirt has to be removed because, along most of the right of way, the ground level is within just a few feet of the overpasses already constructed between Fairview Drive and Carson Street.
The work is all part of the $42.24 million contract with Road and Highway Builders of Sparks. At present, the freeway bypass ends at Fairview where traffic is diverted back to Carson Street. Once completed, south Carson Street will be freed up from the steady stream of tractor-trailer rigs that now use it daily.
Altogether, construction of the four-mile stretch of four-lane freeway will take two construction seasons.
As part of the entire process, the state is planning to repair and repave that part of south Carson Street next year, turning it over to the city after the bypass is finished.