Inside a meeting room of John Ascuaga’s Nugget several RTC officials dissected the scope of the project that will alter Sparks’ busiest intersection to adapt for current and future traffic conditions. A traffic study presented by the RTC, which combined all directions of the two roads, showed the average morning peak hour intersection delay at about a minute and the evening delays at nearly two minutes. Projections for 2035 show morning delays at about a minute and a half and evening delays at a little more than two minutes.
“It is a sorely needed project and has been for a long time,” Jeff Hale, RTC director of engineering, said. “Long term it is an interim solution because we know in 20 years that it is going to get really bad, which is why we are also creating the Pyramid Connector Project. This is a 10- to 15-year project.”
As Sparks residents filled out question and comment cards concerning the project, many were voicing their opinions on the affected area in the surrounding neighborhoods. The RTC, per the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, will acquire 75 single-family residences, three commercial businesses, three churches and two vacant parcels. The project would also include sound and privacy walls in neighborhoods affected by traffic noise.
“The (alternatives) that were eliminated were big fly-over structures and big expensive structures that carried the traffic without having to stop at the intersection,” Hale said. “They were much more expensive and required a lot more property. It was very invasive as far as impacts to the neighborhoods. The way we set this project up to just do the turn lanes and widen Pyramid to three lanes enabled us to kind of pick a side to shove everything, so we are able to evaluate the impacts instead of impacting everyone on both sides. We are able to minimize the invasiveness.”
The Pyramid-McCarran project would widen Pyramid Way to three lanes, reconfigure Queen Way to Tyler Way and place additional turn lanes on McCarran Boulevard. Since the project’s inception Hale said the community has been instrumental in adapting the design to its current state.
“About two years ago we really stepped back and retooled the project and figured out this new at-grade alternative and we started to meet with the neighborhood quadrants to hear their concerns and making some changes,” Hale said. “We are able to address the individual areas of the project and we talked about the improvements we are making on McCarran to help improve access to get to the properties.
“The other issue we really had to step back and educate people on was the idea of ‘a transportation project is coming through so the government is going to take your house.’ So people think they are going to be thrown out on the streets, but that is not what we do and through our work with NDOT we help you move and help you find a new property, pay moving expenses. That was a part of this that made people very very afraid and we have worked to deal with NDOT and FHWA to get the hardship program going.”
RTC Property Acquisition Agent Alan Yoshida said the RTC and Nevada Department of Transportation will pay for the cost of relocation and moving costs once the affected houses have been properly appraised. The two entities' hardship program will also allow residents who will be displaced and are “underwater” on their mortgage a chance to relocate easily.
Pyramid-McCarran Project Manager Scott Gibson was asked by one attendee how the widening of the intersection solves the congestion problem and does not just move it to another part of the city. Gibson responded by clarifying where the congestion would have been without the intersection.
“The other end of the road is where all this congestion would meet is up at 395 and McCarran, which is where the Clear Acre Interchange Project came in,” Gibson said. “Remodeling that corridor handles this traffic because of the way it was configured. This should not move our congestion problem anywhere. We now have the capacity at both ends to handle these roads.”
The public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement Pyramid-McCarran Intersection Project is open until April 15 allowing the public to submit questions or concerns before the draft goes up for approval. Once approved the RTC will be acquiring property in the project area and beginning its design process. Construction is loosely slated for Spring 2015.
Anyone wishing to view or submit comments on the project can visit www.pyramidmccarran.com.