The SouthEast Connector will be a 5.5-mile, six-lane arterial road with two signalized intersections. It will span from the intersection of Greg Street and Sparks Boulevard in Sparks to the intersection of South Meadows and Veterans parkway in Reno.
According to the RTC, the road connecting the south to the east in the Truckee Meadows will reduce traffic congestion on I-80, US 395/I-580, Virginia Street, southeast McCarran Boulevard, Double R Boulevard and Longley Lane. The numbers collected in 2008 by the RTC show 13 western region roads being used to make 130,000 trips per day and three eastern region roads being used to make 102,000 trips per day.
“I think (the approval) shows the recognition that this is a very much-needed community asset,” said Garth Oksol, project manager for the SouthEast Connector. “This has been in the works for a very long time, and really in the last 20 years there has been a lot of discussion on it and people finally said enough talk, let's make up our minds. Then in 2007 they decided to put a line on a map and now it’s time to build that line.”
Oksol said the project is the largest locally funded project in RTC history and it comes with the largest price tag, including Phase I amounting to about $65 million. He said the estimated time for Phase I is 20 months and a total of three years to finish the entire project.
“It is exciting to have the approval of the board, but there is still a lot of work to be done,” Oksol said. “We have to be very efficient and work very hard to make sure that we come in ahead of schedule and under budget.”
Washoe County Commissioner Bob Larkin, who serves as the vice chair of the RTC board, said the project has been alive under several different names in its long existence and called it the “crown jewel” of his eight years spent on the RTC board. He said the need for the project becomes very clear when looking at the expansion of the population in Washoe County.
“About 70 to 75 percent of the population lives north of the Truckee River and about 65 percent of the jobs are south of the Truckee River,” Larkin said. “When you look at it that way, it is apparent that everything is flowing south and north twice a day and there are several choke points along all the commuting routes. This project will save commuting time, gas money and increase productivity at the job sites. It is the right thing to do.”
Phase I of the project will begin at Greg Street and Sparks Boulevard where the roads will be expanded. Next, a 1,300-foot bridge will be put over the Truckee River and 1,800 additional feet of road will be added to get to Clear Water Way, according to Oksol. The RTC now awaits approval from the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility for permission to proceed building on its land, as well as the approval of the University of Nevada, Reno Board of Regents to construct parts of the road on its land.
Oksol said the RTC will be using a new delivery method, known as “construction manager at risk,” for the SouthEast Connector project to increase collaboration between the RTC and the construction company.
“We have already seen $7 million in savings with this method,” Oksol said. “We used a value-based selection for the construction company that included interviews to ensure we could make the best use of the taxpayers’ dollars. We are now working with a guaranteed max price for the project and (contractor) T.Y. Lin International has been working with us for the last eight months, trying to find ways to save time and money. It has been very involved, very interesting and it is a great delivery method.”
Larkin said the approval of the project was “a testament to the RTC being an essential operation” and that the involvement from all three government entities, being Washoe County and the cities of Sparks and Reno, proves a team effort.
“People in the region say that we can’t work together but this proves that we can because we cannot do this project without all three governments working collectively,” Larkin said. “This shows that the RTC is made up of serious elected officials from all three governments and it proves the high-quality cooperation that it takes to get these things done. This is a can-do community and this project really is a win-win for the community.”
For more information about the SouthEast Connector, visit www.rtcwashoe.com.