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SouthEast Connector progresses
by Garrett E. Valenzuela
May 22, 2013 | 2535 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Regional Transportation Commission Project Manager Garth Oksol stands before a   300-ton steel rebar cage Wednesday morning at the Sparks site of the SouthEast Connector near Greg Street and Sparks Boulevard. The project is in the middle of Phase I which constructs the Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Truckee River.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Regional Transportation Commission Project Manager Garth Oksol stands before a 300-ton steel rebar cage Wednesday morning at the Sparks site of the SouthEast Connector near Greg Street and Sparks Boulevard. The project is in the middle of Phase I which constructs the Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Truckee River.
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SPARKS — Driving between cylindrical orange cones and slowing down to 25 miles per hour is a Nevada driver’s perception of construction, but the 'hard hats' occupying the work zone near Sparks Boulevard and Greg Street know there is much more to it.

The Regional Transportation Commission’s SouthEast Connector promises to ease traffic conditions throughout the Truckee Meadows, and Wednesday morning a guided media tour showed just how much has been done on Phase I of the project in Sparks. The current phase, budgeted at $65 million, began in February and includes the extension of Sparks Boulevard to Clean Water Way and construction of Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Truckee River.

Project Manager Garth Oksol discussed several facts about the project Wednesday as he pointed to a nine-foot diameter steel rebar cage being prepped for insertion into an 85-foot deep hole. The rebar cage will have concrete poured into it, like the several others already finished, forming the foundation for the 1,400-foot long bridge over the Truckee River.

Upon completion, the bridge will be the longest in the Truckee Meadows and will span 170 feet over the river, using two parallel bridges averaging 116 feet in width. The bridge, according to Oksol, will have enough concrete to fill 13.5 football fields with one foot thickness.

“There are 13 regional roads on the west side of the spaghetti bowl being used to drive to the residential and commercial areas in the south,” Oksol said. “There are only three north-south routes on the east side and Vista Boulevard and Sparks Boulevard both basically dead end at I-80. If something happens to the intersection of I-580 and US 395, the only road running north on the east side would be Double R Boulevard.”

The mile-long Phase I is scheduled to be complete in the fall of 2014 and has added 280 jobs for on-site work in the process. Phase II of the project, which will complete the remaining 4.5-mile stretch of road from Clean Water Way to Veterans Parkway/South Meadows Parkway, is slated to begin in spring of 2014.

The RTC will submit its U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit for Phase II in July and hopes for approval in November. Oksol said the engineering and design team will continue to work with the community and partnering agencies, while the approval hangs in limbo, allowing construction to begin immediately if the permit is delayed. Granite Construction Company was recently awarded the pre-construction bid from the RTC Board of Commissioners.

“We anticipate a smooth process in submitting the permit,” Oksol said. “We are still able to make adjustments to the design plans while the permits are pending and let the community see what we are planning.”

Scheduled for completion in spring 2016, the total cost of the project is estimated between $230 and $250 million and could see anywhere between 47,000 and 54,000 cars per day in 20 years. The road’s speed limit will be 45 miles per hour and it will be a multi-use road allowing cyclists to take advantage. Oksol estimated about 4.5 minutes being cut from an average commute.

“The hard part about taking McCarran (Boulevard) to the south end is all the signals you have to pass through,” he said. “With this road you only have two signals (Pembroke and Mira Loma drives) so you avoid having to stop and wait during peak times.”

Oksol said many of the concerns and questions from surrounding citizens have been tackled during community meetings, including topics like lack of belief in the growth of the region, increasing flood danger and damaging the wetlands in the area.

The RTC’s plans include stabilization of Steamboat Creek and many of the surrounding wetlands, preventing sediment from moving into the water. The project team has also been tracking and documenting the level of the Truckee River, which shows no signs of increase, and the road will address lack of access in some areas during flood emergencies of Steamboat Creek and the Truckee River.

The RTC has created a Community Working Group composed of representatives from various homeowners, business, civic, environmental and community groups for input on Phase II of the SouthEast Connector. The RTC also holds public meetings on the project designed to inform the public of the plans and gather input on the project prior to construction beginning.

The next community meeting will be at Hidden Valley Elementary School today from 6:30-7:30 p.m. More information and updates on the project are available at www.southeastconnector.com.
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