RENO, Nev. — When the Reno-Sparks Spaghetti Bowl was first constructed between 1969 and 1971, Washoe County had a population of roughly 130,000 people.
At the time, roughly 90,000 vehicles per day used the freeway interchange stretched at the heart of Reno-Sparks.
Almost 50 years later, the population has grown nearly four-fold, sitting at roughly 420,000, with projections of swelling past half a million by 2036.
This influx of people, companies and cars has put the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) on a path to improving the Spaghetti Bowl with a major overhaul that would begin in 2020.
The primary goals of the project are to enhance traffic mobility and traffic safety at the oft-busy I-80/I-580 Interchange, NDOT spokesperson Meg Ragonese told the NNBV.
NDOT developed three alternatives, but feels Alternative 2 best meets the project’s goals and mission “while also minimizing impacts from that future construction,” said Ragonese, adding that the proposed concept would do so by widening the freeway and interchange ramps to accommodate increased traffic volumes.
The department’s preferred alternative was presented to the community in December and is available for public comment through Jan. 15, she added.
So what short-term and long-term impacts could this improvement project have on Northern Nevada businesses?
Under Alternative 2, there would be 22 businesses — most in the southeast quadrant of the Spaghetti Bowl — that would be displaced due to construction. This is fewer displacements than Alternatives 1 or 3, Ragonese noted. Construction would also impact parking at the Rail City Casino, the Nugget Casino Resort and Victorian Avenue businesses in Sparks, north of I-80.
Moreover, an additional 30 commercial properties would experience direct impacts under Alternative 2.
For those potentially displaced, Ragonese said all businesses — and residents — impacted by future construction would be protected by federal regulations (the Uniform Act) that will ensure they are provided a comparable or better location.
NDOT says it is networking with local Realtors and providing continuing information on the availability, purchase prices and rental costs of suitable replacement properties.
To date, the department has identified the following available business properties within a 10-mile radius of the study area: 20 office spaces; 11 office buildings; 13 flex spaces (combination of office and industrial) and four flex-space buildings; 42 industrial warehouse suites; 11 industrial warehouse buildings; and 25 unimproved properties of land.
“As far as the business community goes, we have held nearly 200 meetings with various project stakeholders,” Ragonese said. “A lot of that includes businesses along the interstate alignment, as well … to gather their feedback and keep them updated. There’s really been integration with the business community even from the very beginning as we begin the planning of these future interstate improvements.”
NDOT did not have estimated number of construction jobs the project would create.
The department, however, pointed out that every $1 billion in federal highway and transit investment funded by the American Job Acts would support 13,000 jobs for one year. This is according to the Council of Economic Advisers within the Executive Office of the President. Construction of the project has an estimated price tag of $2.4 billion to $4.1 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars, according to NDOT.
The first of five construction phases of the Spaghetti Bowl improvements is planned to begin in early 2020.
Currently, NDOT is in the “environmental assessment and review stage” of the project, Ragonese said.