The portion of the I-11 heading north through Nevada, and eventually on to Canada, has five proposed corridors to connect with the the ‘Intermountain West’ and possibly I-5 running through Washington, Oregon and California. The three-state stretch of I-5 is responsible for a major chunk of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) with its freight and rail transit of goods from other countries.
“That (potential) corridor of 125 miles is responsible for 17 percent of the GDP of this country. That’s a lot of money, and that corridor is clogged,” Sparks City Councilman Ron Smith said Wednesday morning.
Smith first caught wind of the NDOT and ADOT I-11 study a few months ago and he requested a presentation to the Regional Planning Commission and its Board of Trustees, for which he currently holds a seat. While the project is in its infancy, he said linking Sparks and Reno with freight traffic heading north from Mexico and Los Angeles would bring countless benefits to the northern Nevada area.
“In all reality, this thing won’t be finished for 20 or 25 years,” Smith said. “This thing has the potential to impact this area by billions of dollars. I am saying billions, and I mean billions. We have the natural hub on I-80 with easy access to California, and if we can extend that 125 miles to 250 miles then we are in that corridor.
“If you build a freeway system coming through our area, and I am hoping between Reno and USA Parkway, what happens is you get businesses that locate alongside the freeway. That includes a number of jobs coming in as well.”
Literature produced by the departments of transportation in Nevada and Arizona said the project has been planned for decades and it began discussions with Canada and Mexico in 1991, which was about the same time Nevada became an equal partner with Arizona for the Nevada corridor.
The study continues to examine existing roadway, land acquisitions for new roadways and possible routes, one of which could be the newly built Hoover Dam Bypass and Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge in southern Nevada. Proposed routes, aside from the Reno-Sparks route, could take the I-11 through central or eastern Nevada, but Smith said this area’s existing transportation routes will be a benefit to any new roadways.
“As I look at this, and of course I live here and I am an elected official here, I think that they can’t make any other decision except to come up this way,” Smith said.
Plenty of research is still to come on freeway and railroad options for the I-11, and the RTC will meet with NDOT in Carson City in September to discuss the project at length in hopes of bringing the new road through Sparks and Reno. Because so much of the project is still undetermined, Smith said the best thing the public can do right now is show interest in the project.
“The main focus right now is we need to get both City Council’s members, the Mayors and the County Commission on board with this,” Smith said, adding that he and County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler attended a webinar on Monday. “We don’t want to lose this corridor to another part of Nevada because we didn’t try. It’s got to be because we tried and the corridor going in that area is better than going in this corridor, and I can’t imagine that it would be. We are situated perfectly, we have better weather than they do in eastern Nevada year-round.”
Smith hopes the decision on which area of Nevada will be used for continued study of I-11 will be made by October. The RTC and NDOT Concurrent Meeting in September will be a major chance for stakeholders to voice any questions or comments about the project. Smith said his concern is that because the actual construction of the road will not come for another two decades, that the public will not show interest in the project.
“I think the important thing is as a community we have to get behind this project,” he said. “All of the little stuff that stops projects is little and we can get around that stuff, so this is too big of a deal to say ‘Oh, let them go where they are going to go.’
“People can say this project needs to be planned now even though it is 20 years in the future. It deserves the community to back it up.”