Gov. Brian Sandoval and other members of the NDOT board on Monday told staff to make reconstruction of the Reno Spaghetti Bowl a high priority despite the cost.
Assistant Director John Terry told them the interchange connecting I-80 and U.S. 395 was built between 1969 and 1972 when the Reno-Sparks area had just 150,000 people. Now, he said, there are more than 400,000 and the area is growing rapidly.
Terry said it was designed to have a 20-year lifetime but is now more than 40 years old.
“It was out of date in 1989,” said Sandoval, a longtime Reno-area resident. “It’s not going to get better, it’s going to get worse. We need to get started.”
He was joined by Controller Ron Knecht, who was told the total cost would be more than $200 million.
Terry gave the board some good news on that front, saying since the interchange connects two major interstate highways, “there should absolutely be 95-5 federal funding on something like this.”
“We can do this,” said board member Len Savage.
He said not just the state but the Reno area Regional Transportation Commission, the Paiute tribe who owns land along the right of way, Union Pacific Railroad and agencies who control the Truckee River have to be involved.
“This has to happen,” he said. “We know it’s a high priority.”
Terry and NDOT Director Rudy Malfabon said the biggest constraints will come in developing the Environmental Impact Statement required for that size of a project. He said he wants a contract to get that process started this year. That, he said, will handle preliminary design, traffic modeling, air and noise impact studies and public meetings to get input on the project.
Terry told the board one of the big problems is getting the added right-of-way since the interchange is now completely surrounded by city.
Tom Skancke urged Malfabon and the department to at least look into whether the state can afford the project without federal money since that would greatly reduce the red tape and let construction start earlier.
Malfabon said all possibilities would be examined because, “we cannot afford not to do this project.”