Work begins to finish first half of highway project
When the ceremonial first shovel of dirt is turned Wednesday morning, Gov. Kenny Guinn and Mayor Ray Masayko will have shovels in hand to celebrate the $250 million Carson bypass.
But odds are the man with the biggest grin will be former Mayor Marv Teixeira, who started the battle to build a bypass 14 years ago.
“I went before the (Nevada Department of Transportation) board in January 1989, right after I became mayor, and asked personally when they would be getting started,” he said. “Attorney General Brian McKay said ‘never.'”
It took Teixeira and other city officials, local business and civic groups until September 1996 before the state transportation board finally ordered construction of the bypass. It was a victory won the hard way — by wearing the state down.
“I was their biggest pain over the years,” Teixeira says proudly.
Former Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa would probably agree. She said at one point that he had a better attendance record than most transportation board members.
Still nothing seemed to move quickly. The first contract — $14 million to build overpass bridges at College Parkway, Northgate, Emerson and Arrowhead — was completed two years ago and, again, everything seemed to grind to a halt.
Finally, Ames Construction was formally awarded the contract to complete the northern half of the project in September. The company actually started work a week ago. But city and state officials agreed a ceremony was in order, said state transportation spokesman Scot Magruder.
“Teixeira has to be there because he’s the grandfather of this,” said Magruder.
Ames will connect those bridges from Arrowhead Drive at the north end of the valley to Highway 50 at Pi-on Plaza — a distance of 4.8 miles. The company will also construct a flyway splitting U.S. 395 from North Carson Street at Arrowhead and build the bridge over Highway 50.
“I’m almost starting to believe it now that I see the dirt moving,” said Steve Bilyeu, chief executive officer at Pi-on Plaza, where the bypass will cross Highway 50.
Bilyeu was on the chamber committee formed to push the project in 1995. He said he still believes it will not only help businesses along the bypass route like Pi-on Plaza but downtown as well. He pointed out that Pi-on Plaza and Carson Station on South Carson Street are owned by the same people.
“We have a stake in downtown, too,” he said. “Most of us think it will help downtown.”
Plans are to remake downtown into a more pedestrian-friendly place once commercial traffic and heavy trucks are diverted to the bypass.
In addition to the two construction contracts, the state spent $1.5 million on design and $20 million for right of way on the northern segment.
The total cost for the northern segment, said Magruder, is about $105 million.
He said the southern half will be more costly, about $160 million in construction plus more in right-of-way costs.
That includes the biggest single piece of the puzzle — the interchange connecting the bypass with U.S. 395 south and the Spooner Summit Highway.
That will bring the total cost of the project to more than $250 million.
Magruder said nearly half the total construction budget is due to drainage problems along the right of way.
He said a major benefit to Carson City will be the improvements to drainage that should help eliminate flooding during rainstorms, especially where the bypass will cross Highway 50.
Most of the money is federal, with some coming from state bonds. But Carson City is contributing what it can toward the project. The Board of Supervisors raised the city’s gasoline tax a nickel per gallon in 1996. Magruder said that money has been collecting in a fund for the past seven years and will add about $20 million to the pot.