‘Good and bad’ – Spaghetti Bowl project could displace 22 businesses, 675 employees
RENO, Nev. — Twenty years from now, Bryan Stutler, owner of Reno-based company German Wagen Werks, doesn’t know where his business will be — in more ways than one.
All Stutler knows is his auto repair shop, if still operating, won’t be where it’s been since he opened its doors three years ago on 545 Depaoli St., a stone’s throw from the Reno-Sparks Spaghetti Bowl.
Stutler’s company is one of 22 businesses that will eventually be displaced by future construction of the multibillion-dollar Spaghetti Bowl project — a massive overhaul of the outdated I-80/I-580 interchange that’s being overseen by the Nevada Department of Transportation.
Stutler said when he found out about the project two years ago, he had conflicting feelings about it.
“My reaction was ‘good’ because it’s necessary — the freeway system is a joke here,” Stutler said, pointedly. “But, for the future of where I’m at … it’s not great.
“But, it’s hard to say, because I don’t know if I would be in this building that far in the future. So, it’s good and bad.”
This raises the question: What will happen to businesses like Stutler’s — most of which are tucked in the southeast quadrant of the Spaghetti Bowl — once the construction phase comes knocking at their doors?
According to NDOT, all businesses displaced or acquired for construction will be protected by federal regulations (the Uniform Act) that will ensure they are provided comparable or better property to business owners.
“No one will be given a 90-day notice, or be required to move, without NDOT first making comparable replacement property available to them,” NDOT spokesperson Meg Ragonese said in an email to the NNBW.
In addition, she said “fair market value” will be paid for any businesses purchased, and it will provide relocation assistance to all business owners requesting it.
NDOT developed three alternatives, but Alternative 2, which will result in the fewest business (and residential) displacements, was the construction concept selected through the public involvement process.
Along with 22 business displacements, the Spaghetti Bowl project would impact 30 commercial properties, as well as the loss of surface parking spaces at the Rail City Casino, the Nugget Casino Resort and Victorian Avenue businesses in Sparks, north of I-80, per NDOT.
In all, the project could displace about 675 employees, according to NDOT.
When asked if the Spaghetti Bowl project will affect the Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO), Ragonese said NDOT and the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority worked together to retain the southbound I-580 direct connect ramp to the airport.
She added: “Public input played a major role in retaining the ramp that provides vital access to RNO.”
The Spaghetti Bowl Xpress, the first phase of the project, has the ultimate goal of improving traffic safety and mobility, according to NDOT.
In 2015, there were approximately three crashes per day in the Spaghetti Bowl area, with nearly one injury crash per day and eight fatal crashes in a five-year period, according to the department.
All told, nearly every leg of interstate surrounding the Spaghetti Bowl exceeds the statewide crash rate, with some areas experiencing more than twice the average statewide crash rate, NDOT says.
The project improvements would include widening the freeway and interchange ramps, adding auxiliary merge lanes, and enhancing shoulder landscape and aesthetics, according to NDOT.
The department says without the overhaul, population growth in booming Reno-Sparks would result in an average travel delay increase of 53 percent through the Spaghetti Bowl by 2040. For example, evening rush hour on westbound I-80 through downtown Reno and Sparks would increase from 4.4 minutes in 2016 to 22.4 minutes in 2040.
Needless to say, this would cause more than just a speed bump for the growing number of businesses in the area that rely heavily on trucking.
“These increased travel delays through the heart of our metropolitan area would greatly impact delivery, manufacturing and other industries both locally and regionally,” Ragonese said. “By reducing congestion and enhancing safety, the improvements will provide additional mobility and reliability under which trucking, logistics and other economic development factors can thrive.”
NDOT says the first of the project’s five construction phases is tentatively planned to begin in the fall, with the substantial construction expected to wrap up in early 2023. All told, the overhaul is expected to run through 2039.
In November 2019, NDOT approved an unsolicited proposal design-build contact with Ames Construction and Q&D Construction, which are in the process of developing project management plans, which includes public outreach.
Following the reviewal process, NDOT says the development of the final engineering designs will begin “in the coming months.”
Starting March 2, crews began conducting preliminary “geotechnical soil surveys,” which NDOT says will help provide data to help finalize engineering designs for future construction.
Though no major construction is anticipated over the coming months, the department says drivers will see temporary shoulder and single-lane closures near the Spaghetti Bowl and on I-580 “over the coming weeks.” NDOT says the closures will be “minor in nature” and many of them will take place overnight.
Notably, the first phase of the project will not require the relocation of any businesses or residences, NDOT says.
Construction of the entire project has an estimated price tag of $2.4 billion to $4.1 billion, including the cost of engineering design, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation and construction. NDOT says it is anticipated to be funded through a combination of federal, state and local funds.
NDOT did not have an estimated number of construction jobs the project would create. However, the department notes that every $1 billion in federal highway and transit through the previous American Jobs Act support 13,000 jobs for one year.
“I point out many cases of where privately owned companies do just as bad a job as publicly owned companies,” says Reno resident and former teacher Robert (R.D.) Gardner.