The Reno-Sparks area is experiencing an intense population increase, with Interstate 80 being the main artery running through the cities. Constructed in 1969-1971, the Interstate 80/Interstate 580 interchange (referred to as the Spaghetti Bowl) was built to accommodate a population of around 130,000 people. However, in current times the population sits at around 420,000 people and commuters are experiencing increased congestion, traffic, and delays in getting to their destinations.
Working with the Regional Transportation Commission and Federal Highway Administration, Nevada Department of Transportation is in the process of creating a plan to increase capacity of the Spaghetti Bowl and meet the demand of more cars on the road.
At a July 24 Sparks City Council meeting, NDOT Senior Project Manager Nick Johnson gave a presentation to relay information about where the Spaghetti Bowl project stands.
“This is a long-term construction project in its preliminary stages. The Spaghetti Bowl has grown with more houses and we need to redo the roads to accommodate all of the people,” says Johnson. With 2-3 car crashes a day on the popular interchange, transportation planning agencies are working together to address the high levels of congestion, bottlenecks, and design deficiencies to meet future regional transportation needs.
Already completing the 2020, 2030, and 2040 conceptual models, NDOT is now continuing into the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process which can last for several years. NEPA is a law that requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impact of a proposed project and ensure that the public is adequately informed. Along with NEPA, an Environmental Impact Study is required to show further due diligence by providing an assessment of the project chocked with alternatives, impacts, and existing environmental conditions.
As Johnson went through his presentation, he expressed NDOT’s goals of facilitating an ongoing timely and open exchange of information between the Spaghetti Bowl’s project team and the City of Sparks to resolve any potential negative effects (and benefits) it may have to the Sparks community.
Sparks City Councilwoman Charlene Bybee believes that the biggest bottleneck is at the Nugget Resort Casino and asked Johnson if there is any way to widen the road. He said that NDOT is certainly looking into that and is likely to be included as a potential solution in the preliminary findings.
“Why did it take us so long to get started on this?” Bybee asks.
“For many years (transportation agencies) tried to take on smaller projects and realized that whatever they do to the Spaghetti Bowl impacts the whole region,” Johnson said. He added that he cannot speak about what has happened over the years since the Spaghetti Bowl was originally constructed, but that they are trying to address the issue now before an exponential increase in population growth.
“This is a huge project that is critical for Reno, Sparks, and the county. Let’s get this thing done- a promise was made and let’s take one more time to get it right,” says City Councilman Ron Smith.
A public meeting about the Spaghetti Bowl will be held this September (with the date and location TBA) followed by a Sparks Citizen Advisory Committee meeting on October 12. NDOT will also be providing ongoing updates to the Sparks City Council and hosting stakeholder meetings with 27 local businesses and employers including Walmart, the Nugget, Grand Sierra Resort, Reno-Tahoe International Airport, and more.
Initial concepts and alternative plans are expected to be completed by fall 2017 with a draft EIS done by mid-2018. For more information about the Spaghetti Bowl road construction project, visit ndotspaghettibowl.com.