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NDOT turns US 395 into award-contending project
by Garrett Valenzuela
Sep 13, 2012 | 4965 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - The traffic flow is much less congested for drivers on HWY 395 Northbound, heading into the 'Spaghetti Bowl.' The recent completion of a construction project there is up for a national award. <I>Purchase Sparks Tribune photos from our 'BUY PHOTOS' link.</i>
Tribune photo by John Byrne - The traffic flow is much less congested for drivers on HWY 395 Northbound, heading into the 'Spaghetti Bowl.' The recent completion of a construction project there is up for a national award. Purchase Sparks Tribune photos from our 'BUY PHOTOS' link.
RENO -- It’s easy to forget that the Northbound 395 used to be a three-lane road or even a two-lane road before a widening construction project began in 2010. Commutes through the three-mile stretch between Moana Lane and the I-80 interchange used to be slow, dangerous and among the most congested roads in northern Nevada.

Nevada Department of Transportation Public Information Officer Scott Magruder called the three-mile segment “the busiest stretch of road in northern Nevada,” and said it sees more than 130,000 cars each day. The Northbound US 395 Widening Project, which was completed earlier this year, has qualified as a Top 10 finalist in the 2012 America’s Transportation Awards competition (ATA).

In its fourth year, the ATA judges Department of Transportation projects around the nation based on their capability to finish ahead of schedule, come in under budget and use innovative technology and techniques. The NDOT project collected enough points to win the regional “Ahead of Schedule” category against nine other projects from California, Arizona, Colorado, Washington and Texas.

“We always used to get complaints about that section of the road because merging was dangerous, it was very narrow and one fender bender could stop traffic for an hour,” Magruder said. “That road was built in the 1970s and back when there was maybe 50,000 cars it probably worked. But there for a while it was a white-knuckle ride, especially during peak hours, and we knew it was difficult for people who constantly take that road.”

The $31.5 million widening project began in April of 2010 and was scheduled to be done in November of 2012. Magruder said the project was finished in the spring of this year, about five months ahead of schedule, and was projected to cost $32 million. NDOT was also able to commit $1.2 million to aesthetic improvements on the overpasses of Plumb Lane, Mill Street and Glendale Avenue.

“We’re very pleased to have made the Top 10 and to win an award for this would be really nice,” Magruder said. “Basically, we are doing what taxpayers pay us to do and fixing up the aesthetics of our projects is just the new way of doing things. It makes the community look better.”

The finished project is in contention for the Grand Prize and the People’s Choice Award, both of which will give $10,000 to the winning DOT to use for a charity or scholarship of their choice. Though NDOT’s project is up for an award, Magruder said some motorists don’t see the benefits during construction.

“We don’t always realize the end result when things are torn up out there,” he said. “We knew when we were done things would be much better and, from what I have heard from other people, they think it is a much better ride through there on their way to work or home.”

Brandon Tappe, a Spanish Springs resident who works in Sparks said he would make daily trips on US 395. Occasionally, Tappe would drive a “one-ton” truck that would make it difficult to navigate through

congested traffic.

“Any time after about two in the afternoon I would take the Plumb exit and use the back roads because of the traffic and how hard it was to get to my exit,” Tappe said.

Dylan Greenblat, a Galena-area resident who commutes to the University of Nevada, Reno during the week, said the widened road makes for a much less stressful commute.

“Even before the construction coming through there was a nightmare,” he said. “It would be 30 miles per hour through there and I would have to worry if I would miss class sometimes. But now if its packed I can still get (to school) on time because the traffic flow is usually always moving pretty well.”

In the final round of competition, the Northbound 395 project will square off against projects from California, Maryland, Iowa, Florida and several others for the chance to be crowned Best Road Project.

The People’s Choice voting opened Monday and continues through Oct. 19 and the awards will be announced in November. Magruder said the crews at NDOT have been casting their votes daily.

“We have been going on and voting and we urge the public to do so as well and use their voice in support of this project,” he said. “It would be really nice to say ‘the award-winning US 395 Project.’”

The project is one of two Nevada transportation projects to win a regional award (Spring Creek Roundabout, 2011) and only the third Nevada project to be nominated for regional consideration (I-15 Design Project in Las Vegas, 2010). The US 395 widening is the first Nevada project to crack the top 10, which Magruder said would be the ultimate honor and prove the hard work of their staff.

“Even being nominated shows what we do here on a national level and how we compete with all states and we think this was a worthy project to submit,” Magruder said. “You know when we have projects that don’t go as smoothly we can be dinged for that, but with this one I think people see the definite improvements. That national nomination shows the hard work of our engineers and crews and that they take this seriously, and now people will realize we are doing a good job.”

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