Back in the 1970s, Pyramid Highway was a sleepy little roadway that began at Queen Way and was primarily used by the few thousand residents who lived out that way and weekend sun seekers headed for Pyramid Lake.
Today, roughly 50,000 cars travel Pyramid Highway each day. That number is a mere 20 percent of the 250,000 vehicles that navigate the Spaghetti Bowl on a daily basis, the Nevada Department of Transportation notes, but it still represents a significant amount of traffic heading in and out of Spanish Springs. Commuters moving through north Sparks will enjoy six lanes of travel, along with dedicated bike lanes and a 10-foot wide shared-use path on the east side of the freeway when the Pyramid Highway widening project is completed.
General contractor Granite Construction broke ground this spring on work to widen 1.5 miles of Pyramid Highway from Queen Way to Los Altos Drive. Traffic was shunted to the east side of the highway to allow uninterrupted work on the west side of the roadway, as well as create safer working conditions, said Dan Caldwell, project manager for the State Route 445 Pyramid Highway widening project for Granite Construction.
“We shifted traffic to the east side so we can do all the work during the day behind barrels and concrete temporary barrier rail,” Caldwell told NNBW last week during a video call with representatives from Granite Construction, Regional Transportation Commission and Nevada Department of Transportation.
Courtesy MJT Consulting, LLC
General contractor Granite Construction broke ground this spring on work to widen 1.5 miles of Pyramid Highway from Queen Way to Los Altos Drive.
“That way we have enough space for our trucks to run throughout the job without impacting any traffic,” Caldwell added. “It helps the safety of our workers and the traveling public, and also reduces the amount of lane closures we have to do.”
The current traffic configuration will remain in place through the summer and extend into November, when traffic will again be shifted to the west side of the roadway. That configuration is expected to last through October 2024. Drivers can expect additional travel lane changes this September through December between Los Altos Parkway and Golden View Drive as Granite completes improvements such as beautification, sidewalks, drainage, bike lanes and other infrastructure work in that area.
To get an idea of scope, Caldwell said Granite expects to move between 200,000 and 250,000 cubic yards of material to create space for the roadbed. An average dump truck holds 10 cubic yards of dirt, so that would be between 20,000 and 25,000 dump truck loads of excavated material.
Nanette Maxwell, NDOT project manager, said the first phase will cost approximately $69 million.
Although the entire project is expected to wrap up by summer of 2025, it’s but one leg of an overarching — and massive — six-phase plan to move a portion of traffic headed into town away from Pyramid Way and McCarran Boulevard and into North Valleys via a U.S. 395 connector.
Amanda Callegari, RTC project manager, told NNBW that the significant growth in Sparks and Spanish Springs over the past decade hastened the need to create alternate routes into North Valleys. Additional phases will likely see Disc Drive extend from its terminus at State Route 445 through Sun Valley to Parr Boulevard, along with a grade-separated interchange at Pyramid Highway and Highland Ranch Parkway that’s already approximately 60 percent designed (a grade-separated interchange uses ramps to cross above roadways.)
That interchange will take motorists coming into town from north of Sparks Boulevard to 395 along a mountain ridge alignment, and it will connect to a Disc Drive extension before it reaches Sun Valley Boulevard. Traffic will go over Sun Valley Boulevard via another grade-separated interchange before exiting onto Parr Boulevard and U.S. 395.
Additional phases will also see Pyramid Highway widened all the way to Calle De La Plata, Callegari noted. Those infrastructure improvements will drastically change the landscape of Pyramid Highway and Sun Valley Boulevard, but they are the only real traffic relief solutions for the congestion on Pyramid Highway, she added.
“The level of traffic demand is not sustainable,” Callegari said. “Even if we don’t build that connector, what we are doing here in Phase 1 won’t be sustainable; we have to keep pushing forward.
“It is a very large effort — the largest RTC has ever undertaken,” she added. “We will be partnering with NDOT throughout the project because NDOT does own Pyramid Highway. We will be discussing maintenance and responsibility for the connector as we move forward with design on that as well.”
Callegari said approximately $1 billion worth of work remains to complete all phases of the project. Timelines largely depend on securing funding, she added, as well as furthering design of major infrastructure pieces that will help define future project scheduling.
“This is a small portion of a really large project, and there are a lot of reasons to phase them out,” she said. “Whether it is funding, to reduce overall impact on the community, or acquiring a significant amount of right of way, it’s going to be a long road. We have to take these baby steps in order to get to the final product. It is a process, and it takes time, but it’s coming and we will be doing public outreach and involvement as we continue through the design efforts on the future phases.”
Additional infrastructure projects slated for the region include widening U.S. 395 between North McCarran and Golden Valley boulevards, as well as widening Interstate 80 from Vista Boulevard to USA Parkway, said Meg Ragonese, public information officer for NDOT.