SILVER SPRINGS — About 300 people gathered in the auditorium of the Silver Stage High School on Wednesday to hear a presentation and comment on the USA Parkway, which is expected to begin construction next year and be completed by the end of 2017.
The proposed four-lane, 18.5-mile highway that will connect Interstate 80 to U.S. 50 at Opal Avenue here is expected to be approved by the Federal Highway Administration early next year, then begin design and construction in the second quarter, 2015.
The public comment period follows the completion of the roadway’s environmental assessment, which is required to obtain the needed right-of-ways from the Bureau of Land Management and to seek federal funding.
Pedro Rodriguez, project manager for NDOT, who gave the presentation, said the parkway will cost between $35-70 million to build.
Many of the audience members who stood to ask questions after his presentation were concerned the road would negatively impact the area’s wild horse population.
Rodriguez said the environmental assessment has identified a few locations for wildlife crossings, structures which provide underground passage across the road for wild horses, deer and other wildlife.
Other participants wanted details on road lighting or additional access points for cars and trucks. Rodriguez said the road is only 30 percent designed so more details would be determined during the next phase of the project when a design and build team is chosen to construct the project.
So far, the design includes a signal light at the intersection of U.S. 50.
“We haven’t heard much of a ringing endorsement,” said Gretchen Murray, a resident of Silver Springs who was the last to take the microphone after several people expressed uneasiness about the highway. “But we are thrilled the road is coming.”
The road is expected to significantly cut travel time for commuters going from Lyon County to Reno-Sparks. About a quarter of the traffic on the road is expected to be trucks, said Rodriguez, many traveling between Reno to Las Vegas.
The USA Parkway, also known as State Road 439, has been talked about since 2000. Between 2006 and 2009, developers of the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center funded the construction of the first 10 miles of the roadway. In 2011, NDOT commenced the environmental assessment.
But the state struggled to find funding to complete the road. Then Tesla Motors Inc. decided to locate its new battery factory at TRIC. As part of the incentive package used to woo the electric car maker here, the state agreed to pay $43 million for the needed right-of-ways to build the road.
The public can continue to send comments on the project to NDOT through Nov. 21.