Pyramid/McCarran improvement project completion expected the end of October

Then intersection of Pyramid Way and North McCarran Boulevard is seen prior to reopening at midnight.

Then intersection of Pyramid Way and North McCarran Boulevard is seen prior to reopening at midnight.

Frustrated drivers, there’s hope: construction on the Pyramid/McCarran intersection improvement project is nearly complete.

And the $73 million job that began in April 2016 is wrapping up months ahead of schedule.

The result will be three lanes in each direction on Pyramid Way. On eastbound McCarran, there will be a triple left turn lane onto northbound Pyramid. There also will be dedicated turning lanes at every other corner so turn traffic is moved out of through-stream traffic.

Jason Fritz, project manager for Granite Construction, said the project is slated for completion in the middle of October rather than spring.

“Of the many challenges associated with a project of this magnitude, perhaps the biggest challenge was maintaining the flow of traffic through Pyramid Way and McCarran Boulevard,” Fritz said. The busiest intersection in Sparks sometimes sees more than 60,000 cars per day.

Another major issue involved closing the entire intersection at Pyramid and McCarran — right before Burning Man — to complete paving work. Although it’s just a 100-foot-by-100-foot section of pavement, it’s one the most heavily traveled intersections in the Truckee Meadows.

“That intersection always has a car driving through it,” Fritz said. “There really was no way around closing it. The team worked really well on communications, and it was like a light switch — the cars just went around.

“At Granite we do a pretty good job of keeping the crystal ball shined up so we can look ahead and try to predict any and all hiccups,” Fritz added.

The closure started 9 p.m. on Aug. 25, and the intersection was reopened by midnight on the 26th — again, well ahead of schedule.

Scott Gibson, project manager for the Regional Transportation Commission, said the closure was slated to be a marathon weekend-long job lasting through Sunday. It could have been finished even earlier, Gibson noted, but it was so hot that Saturday that Granite Construction had to let the new asphalt cool and harden before letting traffic drive on it.

Planning for the closure took more than three weeks. Detour routes were mapped out by Week 2, Fritz said, and the final week involved pushing out notification of the closure to commuters and other stakeholders. RTC used routine stakeholder updates and text-push notifications, and it also engaged local and regional media to inform drivers about the upcoming closure.

“The media was very helpful in getting the information out to the public,” said Michael Moreno, public affairs administrator for the RTC. “We (also) had communications with the Burning Man organization to let them know the closure was happening so they could let Burners know the alternate route to Burning Man.”

At peak construction more than 60 tradesmen have worked on the Pyramid/McCarran job, Fritz said. For the intersection closure, Granite engaged four flaggers and 20 tradesmen. Paving proved extremely challenging since crews had to match grades, slopes and drainage to all four legs of the intersection that had already been improved.

“That final hundred-by-hundred square had to tie all those together, and there were no plans that showed exactly how it was supposed to work,” Gibson said. “It was all the skill of Granite and the surveyors and paving crew that made it fit on the fly. It was a very expertise-oriented piece of work to get it all together.”

So what’s left? Although commuters are enjoying the new traffic patterns, there’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done before the last traffic cone is removed, Fritz said. And even though Granite has hit the home stretch, the final six weeks of the project will prove to be some of the most onerous.

“This is the most challenging part from a management standpoint because there’s a lot of scheduling and coordinating,” Fritz said. “Before we would just work in (the same) area for three months. Now we are all over the project in every which way.”

Granite and its subcontractors still need to install infrastructure and electrical for the traffic signals, as well as install glue-down curbing, which will take up to three weeks. The new asphalt also has to be milled so it ties well into existing grades on Pyramid Way and McCarran Boulevard. Lastly, crews must lay a final wear surface across the expanse of the entire project, as well as lay final lane striping.

“In terms of impacting the public, we are totally in the way, and it changes daily and weekly,” Gibson said. “There will be a lot of big equipment out in the middle of the road, and we have to take a lot of lanes to do it, which constricts everything down.”

Drivers need to exercise caution — and patience — through the final leg of construction.

“Expect delays,” Gibson said. “We are going to be constricting traffic, and it’s hard to tell when it’s going to be good in the direction you are going. It’s going to be a roll of the dice these last few (weeks). But be patient — the end is in sight.”

Road construction is never easy, Moreno noted, but drivers will enjoy the benefits of the roadwork and improvements for years to come.

“We are making the intersection better,” Moreno said. “We are excited to complete this project. We aren’t just building an intersection; we are building a neighborhood. We are going to move traffic a lot better, it’s going to be safer, and the neighborhood looks much nicer. There are a lot of great elements.”


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