Controversial I-580 project dates back 30 years |

Controversial I-580 project dates back 30 years

The I-580 project began more than 30 years ago and was as controversial then as now.

The first battles were over the route the project would take from the Mount Rose Highway to Washoe Valley.

The Nevada Department of Transportation presented six options in 1976, none of which was finally chosen.

Two went around the west side of Steamboat Hills through Callaghan Ranch, land now occupied by some of the Reno area’s most expensive homes. Two other routes went east of the existing U.S. 395 route. One of the proposals would have followed the existing road through Pleasant and Washoe valleys.

While NDOT favored the routes through Callaghan Ranch, there was pressure politically from those who wanted that area to become housing as well as concerns about Indian archaeological sites, damage to wildlife habitat and the fact the highway would be a scar visible from a large portion of south Reno.

After several hearings and a lawsuit by a citizen’s group to force an environmental impact study, the alignment halfway up the eastern side of Steamboat Hills was selected.

The route chosen was a challenge for engineers because of the difficulty of building a bridge through a geothermal field and the large span required to cross Galena Creek. But politically, it was the most acceptable choice.

The project languished for two decades because the decision was made to build the freeway in phases beginning in north Reno.

When the freeway finally reached Mount Rose Highway, the state got serious about the funding. At that point, in the mid-1990s, the estimated cost of the project was about $200 million to build the freeway from Mount Rose Highway to the north end of Washoe Valley.

Preliminary design work started in 1998 but it took until 2005 to acquire needed right of way and finish the design.

By 2003, the estimated total cost had risen to $310 million.

The first contract was issued that year to Edward Kraemer and Sons. For $79.5 million, they were to build four bridges including Galena Creek. Kraemer asked out of the contract in 2006 because of concerns about the safety of raising the concrete and steel arches designed to hold the roadbed. The company was paid just more than $50 million for the three small bridges and the work on Galena.

The project contract was again put out to bid. Fisher Engineering, in partnership with CC Myers, which specializes in bridge work, won the contract with a bid of $393,393,393 and began work just before the end of 2006.

The project is scheduled for completion in late summer of 2011 at a total cost of just under $444 million.