Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., on Monday told the Nevada Department of Transportation Board if Nevada doesn’t move to designate its preferred route for Interstate 11, the state will likely lose the ability to make those choices.
“Events are happening as we speak in a sense closing doors for this board as to what your options are in terms of route,” he said.
A major factor, he told the board headed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, is the application by Naval Air Station Fallon to expand its operations to an additional 600,000 acres of land in Churchill County. Amodei said if the Navy gets it’s way, “that door is closed to us as an option.”
“My request is can you please start the process,” Amodei said.
He conceded that actual construction of the new interstate from Phoenix all the way to Vancouver is years away but said the state needs to seriously examine what route they want the freeway to take from southern Nevada to its connection with Interstate 80. He said he is particularly concerned about the route through Mineral, Lyon and Churchill counties saying the state needs to “preserve the right of way from other encroachments.”
Amodei said that includes its route around Walker Lake and Indian lands in the Hawthorne area.
He said those decisions should be made in Nevada, not elsewhere.
NDOT staff has laid out a general route for the freeway pretty much following U.S. 95.
In addition, board member Tom Skancke questioned whether Nevada might be able to take advantage of President Trump’s executive order designed to speed up environmental reviews of major infrastructure projects.
Skancke said he was hoping that executive order could speed reconstruction of the Reno Spaghetti Bowl.
“If we can get something done on this sooner — like before we all die — this executive order allows us to run faster,” he said.
NDOT Director Rudy Malfabon said details on how that executive order would work haven’t come out yet. He said the state is moving as quickly as possible on its development of that project. He said he understands the executive order as fast tracking environmental reviews of major projects like the Spaghetti Bowl.
“Another concern is U.S. EPA is reducing staff,” Malfabon said adding the laws mandating environmental review and protection aren’t changing.
“If less staff is available, I would think that would cause some concern,” Malfabon said.
Skancke agreed: “If they’re going to reduce that staff we’re only going to backlog the projects even more.”
Malfabon said the state will have to wait until more details on the executive order are available.