The Nevada Department of Transportation Board was told on Monday reconstruction and modernization of the nearly 50-year-old Reno Spaghetti Bowl won’t begin until 2021 or 2022.
Engineer Nick Johnson said the environmental approval process alone will take until at least early 2020 and, until it’s done, there will be no actual construction.
Although Johnson said engineers aren’t even at the point where they can estimate the total cost of the project, a tentative funding chart for that and several other major highway projects in the works listed about $350 million for the Spaghetti Bowl from now through 2024.
“This is something that is absolutely critical to the Truckee Meadows,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Member Tom Skancke said with the huge development at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center and Reno/Sparks growing by leaps and bounds, the Spaghetti Bowl is probably the most important project facing the NDOT board.
“The only way you can get around the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process is to not put any federal money in it,” he said.
Sandoval said he would like the department to look into bonding for the cost to speed the process. But NDOT Director Rudy Malfabon assured the governor and other board members the funding will be available when it’s needed. He said NDOT has the ability to bond for about $160 million a year over the coming years to pay for that as well as other major projects, nearly all of which are in southern Nevada.
The Spaghetti Bowl is the intersection of U.S. 395 and Interstate 80 in the middle of Reno. Johnson said one of the big issues is the large number of on and off ramps through the area, many so close to each other they create serious “choke points” slowing traffic.
But officials have said in the past the major issue is the fact the Reno/Sparks metropolitan area has simply outgrown the bowl. When it was built, the entire metro area was less than 100,000 people. Now there are more than 450,000 residents in the valley.