Questions and answers on the bypass construction project
Jeff Fontaine, director of the Nevada Department of Transportation, and Jim Gallegos, project manager for the Carson Freeway project, recently sat down for a discussion with the Nevada Appeal on highway construction and related issues.
How long will it take to finish the northern half of the bypass and are there any remaining issues that could delay completion?
Gallegos: “No real issues. We expect to complete the northern phase by the spring of 2006. The biggest concern has been drainage, but the boxes are about 75 percent complete. Another hurdle we had was getting the utilities relocated and we’re close to having that done.”
Fontaine: “At this point, the project is actually progressing very well. It’s on schedule and it’s on budget. At the northern end, you can see the roadway now, where the lanes will be. And when the drainage is competed, they’re going to have a substantial benefit. They’re going to reduce flooding – eliminate flooding in some areas and allow other properties to be developed.”
How will traffic patterns change once the northern half is completed?
Fontaine: “This is a phased project so the community is not going to have the full benefit of the project until the entire project is completed. However, we do see some benefits with the completion of this phase, including access for motorists traveling to the east side of the community and those going to communities east of Carson City like Dayton. There’s a lot congestion now at the Carson Street-College Parkway intersection and we believe there will be some congestion relief and some safety benefits north of Winnie Lane to that intersection.”
Gallegos: “Also as you head up the hill out of Carson City there’s going to be a truck climbing lane. That’ll be a nice addition. And we’re adding a median which should improve safety. There’ll be signing at the north end of the freeway that should direct most through traffic down Carson Street so we don’t pull them down to 50 thinking that’s the quick way to Minden-Gardnerville until the south half is completed.”
What is the status of the southern half of the project?
Gallegos: “At this point, it’s 30 percent designed.”
Fontaine: “One of the things we’re looking at is constructing the next phase to Fairview so, instead of having to wait to do the whole thing at once, we could construct a usable section to Fairview. And that would be in conjunction with the city adding lanes to Fairview. That would enable us to direct the traffic around downtown.”
What are the major stumbling blocks to completing the project?
Fontaine: “It’s a $160 million project and we need to develop the budget. But we are committed to the project. The next phase to Fairview is about $45 million. It’s possible we could have that under construction around the time or just before we finish the first phase.”
How will things change when the bypass is completed to Spooner intersection? Will Carson residents see any relief to downtown traffic once the bypass is completed or will it just basically compensate for growth?
Fontaine: “There’s going to be growth in traffic on Carson Street even when the bypass is open. But without the bypass, we would have severe congestion. The bypass is important because that’s where the truck traffic is going to go. And when the bypass is completed, Carson Street will be turned over to Carson City. That gives them some more options.”
Gallegos: “We’re realigning Fifth Street – taking one of the curves out of the ‘S’ by the prison. The big thing is the drainage throughout the valley. We’re spending probably $30 million to $40 million on drainage in the north and $10 million in the south portion. That will enable economic development in a number of areas. There’ll be partial lighting of interchanges. You will not see full freeway lighting.”
How long do you estimate it will take to complete the bypass?
Fontaine: “If we get the next phase to Fairview under way in 2006 — that’s about a two-year project — then get the final phase under construction, we’re looking at 2010. That’s the goal, but that’s dependent on a lot of things including right-of-way acquisition and money.”
What has been the most difficult part of the project?
Fontaine: “This is the first full, new freeway we’ve built through a community in a long time. Before there were concerns about environmental impacts, noise, lighting, this would have been a very easy freeway to build. But that’s not what we do now. We have to be very mindful of what the community wants and the impact on the community so a lot of things need to be worked out to make sure this is not just a swath through town. It’s going to be a permanent fixture in this community, and we want people to be able to look at this and say it’s been a successful development. Us too. Most of us live here.”
What is NDOT looking at for other major projects in the north over the next decade?
Fontaine: “The Reno to Carson freeway, of course, is the other super project in the north. When that’s complete and this is complete, you’ll have freeway to the south end of Carson City, which is essential for traffic and for community development. We’re also looking at widening portions of U.S. 50 in the Dayton area because of growth out there. And the widening of U.S. 50 from Fernley to Fallon – that’s an important project.”