Construction on V&T line delayed

An effort to extend the historic Virginia & Truckee Railroad has been knocked off track by a federal grant needed to complete the railroad across the Overman Pit.

Frustrated by the slow pace of the project to rebuild the line along its original 17-mile route from Virginia City to Carson City, the Gold Hill Historical Society initiated its own efforts to build a quarter-mile of track just south of the Gold Hill Depot.

But the project was halted when officials realized the stretch of track was identified as part of the Overman Pit project. As such, it is subject to a Federal Highway Administration environmental impact study, still being researched.

"It would be presumptuous to start construction of the rail line before that assessment has been completed," said John Price of the Federal Highway Administration. "What we have told the (Northern Nevada) Commission basically is that if someone started construction on the (Gold Hill) alternative, the project would not be eligible for federal aid."

That statement should be ready this fall, according to Price. Getting across the Overman Pit -- a large, open mine just outside Virginia City -- will cost about $5.4 million and the grant will provide $2.2 million for that effort.

Reconstruction of the 17-mile project is directed by the Northern Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway and they initially encouraged the Society's efforts, according to spokesman Kim Fegert.

Only about nine members strong, the Society acquired 600 tons of ballast, 50 railroad ties and 1,300 feet of rail from Total Energy Co. of New York for the project.

The materials are now stacked near the Gold Hill Depot. About $20,000 will be needed for the project's engineering and construction, financed by an ongoing fund-raiser for restoration of both the line and the Gold Hill Depot. The Society has raised about $4,000.

"We're taking donations of cash and materials for the track project," said Fegert. "We're going pile everything up until we see what happens."

Fegert prefers the historic route, while federal officials favor another route nearby.

"The historic route runs by an old masonry retaining wall and they (the Highway Administration) think it will crumble," Fegert said.

Anyone who prefers another route is invited to provide input to the Federal Highway Administration, according to Price.

The $24.4 million project is expected to take two years to complete, including the acquisition of real estate, construction, and the purchasing and restoration of equipment. The projected economic benefits should easily out-strip the price tag, organizers say.

Ridership survey results indicate that the majority of tourist passengers would extend a stay in the area, and the additional spending will generate $7.1 million. That, together with revenues from construction and employment, is expected to pump $16.5 million into the economy annually.


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