Crews are putting the final polish on the last stretch of freeway that will complete the Carson Bypass.
Tentative plans are to open for a run-walk and bike tour for area residents July 22. The final stretch won’t open to traffic until the first week of August. But once it does, Carson City, after decades of dreaming, will have a freeway bypass all the way from the northern edge of Eagle Valley to Spooner Junction.
In addition to the three-quarter inch thick open grade layer of pavement cars and trucks will drive on, Project manager Will Hellickson said Thursday final touches include dozens of metal sculptures along the roadway and other decorations.
The prize decoration he said, will be the metal sculpture of an eagle with wings held high — some six feet tall and weighing more than 800 pounds — that will soon take its tree-shaped, concrete roost at the south end of the freeway. The eagle brings to the new terminus of the freeway the same metal eagle symbol that has adorned the north end of the bypass at Arrowhead Drive for a decade now.
Those impressive birds of prey are in honor of the actual name of the valley that’s home to Carson City, the capital.
Hellickson said the eagle was created by Ivak Cooper of Idaho expressly for the bypass.
The other metal decorations, he said, were made by Road and Highway Builders crew members in their own shop and will bring historic themes to the right of way all along the final four-mile section of the freeway from Fairview Drive to Spooner Junction.
They include decorating pillars that support the Koontz Lane overpass to look like the trunks of Aspen trees with 1,500 metal leaves on the overpass itself.
Nearby, metal shepherds escort their metal flock down one side of the freeway and up the other.
A tiny metal wagon train marches across the Clearview overpass. Sound walls are decorated with Native American themed art where the freeway passes the Stewart Indian Colony’s land. Natural designs decorate the other side’s walls.
Below the finish pavement is a six inch thick dense grade atop a 22-inch thick base.
The four-mile stretch ends in a signalized intersection at the junction of South Carson Street, U.S. 395 South and U.S. 50 heading up Spooner Grade.
Because thousands of trucks weekly will be stopping at that intersection, the final 1,200 feet of roadway consists not of asphalt but of 9 inch thick concrete to absorb the wear and tear.
The final phase of the project cost $42.24 million. In addition to four lanes of pavement, that cost includes about $8 million to construct 14,440 feet of sound walls.
The project is on schedule now but, because of the prolonged and wet winter, was significantly behind in December and January when continual rain and snow turned the right of way into a bog. Crews caught up when the weather dried up through spring.
Once in operation, the bypass is expected to remove most through traffic — especially trucks, from Carson Street through town.
With the end of the bypass project in sight, NDOT and city officials are shifting their attention to the reconstruction of South Carson Street from Fairview to Spooner Junction. NDOT is contributing $5.1 million to that project. City officials will make up the rest of the estimated $10.3 million with a combination of sales tax money, federal highway money and money from a Surface Transportation Program block grant.
The city will assume ownership of Carson Street once the bypass is open for business.
But the saga of the bypass won’t actually be complete for a few more years until the state finds the cash to turn the at-grade signalized intersection there into a full-scale freeway intersection complete with fly-over lanes so no one has to hit the brakes to get through. That will take at least $20 million more that just wasn’t in the budget at this point.