VIRGINIA CITY — On Tuesday, an approximate two-mile portion of State Route 342 reopened after a ribbon cutting event in front of nearly 70 attendees. The festivities began with public comments by representatives of Storey County, the Nevada Department of Transportation (“NDOT”) and Comstock Mining Inc. (“Comstock Mining”), the landowner and ended with a reception at the Gold Hill Hotel. The road had been closed to traffic since Sunday, Feb. 8.
NDOT closed the section of SR-342, south of Gold Hill, as a safety precaution following roadway cracking and area specific sinking during a weekend of heavy rains. The area of sinking was above a historic mine shaft that had a history of collapses dating back to the early 1900’s, and as recently as 2006. Comstock Mining owns the land, with NDOT granted prescriptive rights to operate the state roadbed over that private land.
Immediately after the February closure, Storey County, NDOT, Comstock Mining, and other applicable regulatory agencies met continuously to assess the best alternatives for reopening the road. Ultimately, it was decided that the route would be realigned to the east of the historic shaft and the shaft would be permanently capped. Comstock Mining funded the realignment project and shaft capping, provided the majority of the manpower and coordinated the project management. Nevada Department of Transportation and Storey County worked in full collaboration, with NDOT providing daily oversight of the project.
Corrado De Gasperis, Comstock Mining’s President & CEO commented: “This represents one of the most efficient and effective examples of public private partnerships at work, bringing the best project management, geotechnical and construction support and regulatory efficiencies and oversight that I have ever seen, anywhere. It’s good for the Comstock and it’s good for Nevada.”
The realignment is occurring over two major phases, with Phase 1 finishing about 1 week early and Phase 2 requiring an additional six months to complete. Phase 1 is a temporary solution bypass and was completed on Tuesday and Phase 2 began in conjunction with Phase 1 in May and will result in the permanent solution and a roadway that is further east of the previous route.
Phase 1 began with Comstock Mining removing the existing asphalt and unconsolidated fill material consisting of historic mine dumps was removed from the area. Shortly after the excavation began the Silver Hill Mine hoist foundation was uncovered and the shaft exposed. The material has potential contaminants, reflecting a significant environmental clean up and remediation. The excavation removed this material all the way down to bedrock, capped the shaft permanently using iron beams and 72 cubic yards of concrete. The area was backfilled and compacted over the bedrock and tiered until it reached road level.
Cruz Construction and Comstock Mining worked relentlessly, despite rains and bad weather, and stayed ahead of schedule. Cruz Construction began rolling pavement onto the area of reconstructed roadway in late May and the initial phase of the roadway project was finished and opened a week ahead of its original June 6 projected completion date.
Comments at the Tuesday ribbon cutting and reception included Storey County Commission Chairman Marshall McBride recognizing the team work and the collaboration it took to complete such a major project in a short time period. NDOT District Engineer Thor Dyson told the crowd gathered at the ribbon cutting event prior to the reopening, “Comstock Mining owns the land directly on both sides and underneath State Route 342. As the private land owner, Comstock deserves a huge amount of credit for funding and administering this project to reopen the road on their land. We’ve worked closely with Comstock Mining to review and ensure that design specifications and construction methods are to state standard. Not only has Comstock, NDOT and Storey County been able to reopen this important road nearly a week ahead of schedule, we will ultimately be providing a newer, improved road with wider lanes and shoulders. And that helps keep the entire community and region more safe and connected.”
Pat Whitten, Storey County Manager toasted the success of the first Phase and the reopening of the road during a toast at the reception stating, “Here’s to a straight shot to Carson City and working together to get it done.”