Freeway delayed until summer, early fall

The work had been expected to start in May, according to Susan Martinovich, Nevada Department of Transportation assistant director, and Carson Freeway Manager Jim Gallegos.

But state officials are waiting on a decision from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on revisions to a floodplain map across Lompa property south of Highway 50 East, they said.

FEMA approval of the changes will allow engineers to finish their design of the freeway, and without knowing how much acreage the state will need -- estimated between 80 and 100 acres -- appraisers can't determine a value for the property.

Previously, state officials anticipated bidding the $136 million project in May and starting construction soon after. Gallegos said design of the project will be finished in May.

"Everybody starts out with the best of intentions," City Manager John Berkich said. "You can't anticipate everything. It takes time.

"We're going to continue to work on the issues and things that need to be done and, hopefully, all that work can be done in a timely fashion, including the acquisition of the much-needed Lompa property."

Gallegos pointed out that over the years many things have stalled progress on the freeway -- from design changes, such as the addition of ramps at Arrowhead Drive, to the endangered wandering skipper butterfly. The flood of January 1997 and a delay over a bike path were other issues that affected the timeline.

"Carson City is a big partner in this," Martinovich said. "A lot of changes are as a result of that partnership."

Now, the biggest question mark looming over the project is how much property the state has yet to acquire.

The state plans to take property south of Highway 50 East owned by the Lompa family for both freeway phases.

Martinovich said the transportation department learned from a 1999 lawsuit in which a jury awarded landowner John Serpa just under $1 million an acre for about 6 acres needed for the freeway intersection near the Spooner Summit Junction.

She said as the department prepares to make an offer to the Lompa family, state appraisers are taking into account varying land uses and potential land uses for the vacant property.

"We have to go through the right-of-way process. We have to see what the value of the property is," Martinovich said. "(The Lompas) are not holding this process up. We have ample opportunity to try to make sure it's a good, ample offer."

Also, before the state can proceed with construction of the freeway, Carson City needs to finish drainage and utility relocation projects.

"We're working closely with Carson City," Gallegos said. "We both have issues that need to be done."

Andrew Burnham, Carson development services director, said the city recently bid a $1 million drainage project near Broadleaf and Arrowhead. He said the city still needs to purchase some property for construction of the necessary Timberline/Coombs detention basin, which is also on hold awaiting the results of the FEMA decision.

Burnham said the city would be done with about $6.5 million in utility relocations around Highway 50 East in time for construction late this summer.

Options such as continuing freeway construction to College Parkway and then finishing it to Fairview Drive in a separate phase remain open, Martinovich said, as the state looks to the uncertain future of property acquisition. Carson City supervisors will receive an update on the freeway project Thursday.

Gallegos said the design of the freeway's $160 million second phase got a boost as designers planned for features to Fairview Drive. The southern interchange at Highway 395 and the Spooner Summit junction may again be redesigned. Construction on that project, from Highway 50 East to the Spooner Summit Junction, is expected to begin around 2005 and end in 2010.

Construction on the $14 million Phase 1A -- bridges over Arrowhead and Emerson drives, Northgate Lane and College Parkway -- should wrap up this spring. Phase 1B will fill in the freeway between those bridges and includes a bridge over Highway 50 East.

If you go:

What: Carson City Board of Supervisors meeting

When: 1 p.m., Thursday

Where: the Community Center's Sierra Room, 851 E. William St.


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