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NDOT moves for money and land needed for bypass

by Geoff Dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

The Nevada Transportation Board moved Tuesday to raise the necessary money and claim the land needed for the Carson City bypass.

The board also voted to ask the district court for immediate access to 82 acres of the Lompa family ranch in Carson City to begin work on the project.

Almost $300 million needed for the bypass was authorized by the board, including some $90 million to finish the first phase, from Arrowhead Drive to Highway 50 East.

The board authorized issuance of a total of $199.3 million in bonds to help fund the bypass, the widening of Highway 95 in Las Vegas and the Henderson “Spaghetti Bowl.”

“It’s time for all of us to get off our duffs and move ahead on these projects,” said Gov. Kenny Guinn, who also is board chairman.

Guinn also served notice he plans to seek up to $725 million more in bonding capacity through the 2003 Legislature to move ahead those projects and the Interstate 580 freeway between Reno and Carson City.

“I’m telling you it’ll take the next 20 years to get the bypass if we don’t get going,” he told the audience in the transportations department’s Carson City board room.

Carson City Mayor Ray Masayko applauded the decision and promised city officials would do whatever necessary to make sure nothing at the municipal level holds up the work.

A contract expected to go to bid this summer will complete the bypass from Arrowhead Drive at the north end of town to Highway 50 East and finish the overpass at Highway 50. It will enable the state to begin work on drainage structures south of the highway on the Lompa property.

Several members of the Lompa family spoke, saying they also support the project.

“The Lompa family does not wish to block the freeway or stop the freeway in any way,” said Tom Keating, son-in-law of Eva Lompa, who owns the 400-acre ranch.

Keating denied the family has done anything to slow the progress of the project. But the family is arguing in court the 82 acres the state wants is worth far more than the $2.8 million offered. He accused the state of holding things up by filing a complaint against the appraiser the Lompas want to use.

Deputy Attorney General Brian Hutchins said his staff didn’t file the complaint — it was filed before the Lompas sought to hire the man challenging his handling of another condemnation case.

“If your appraiser’s got some problems working here, get another appraiser,” Guinn told them.

He said his goal is to get as much funding as possible into major roadway projects in the state while interest rates are low and contractors are available because of reduced contracts in other western states.

Department of Transportation Director Tom Stephens said in addition to the $199.3 million approved for bonding Tuesday, Guinn’s proposed NDOT budget contains $135 million for fiscal 2004 and $190 million in fiscal 2005.

Guinn said those numbers probably can be boosted by another $200 million.

“So when we do the resolution, we’re not going to ask for $525 million. We’re going to ask for $725 million,” Guinn said.

With some $400 million in the Highway 95 project, another $116 million in the Henderson “Spaghetti Bowl” and well over $100 million for the I-580 project, Stephens said the state will spend nearly $1 billion to finish all by the end of 2006.