By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Discussions are ongoing with federal officials about expanding Interstate-80 near the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, which is the home to Tesla, Switch, Google and more than 100 other businesses, said Lance Gilman, TRI’s broker/partner, on Tuesday
Yet the federal Department of Transportation needs to streamline and speed up its permitting process before any expansion of I-80 can happen, Gilman said during an interview on Nevada Newsmakers.
About 30,000 vehicles travel between Reno and TRI’s USA Parkway on a daily basis, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation. That traffic is expected to double in the next 20 years, according to NDOT.
“So lets take an example of a NEPA (environmental planning) permit,” Gilman said. “A NEPA permit can take as long as nine or 10 years, all by itself. What would happen on the I-80 corridor and on the spaghetti bowl (in Reno) if NEPA could come in and give us that permit within one year? NDOT could get started.
“Really, the play that needs to happen right now for us to build I-80 is that the federal government needs to learn to speed up their process.”
The Trump administration is working to speed up the process and cut regulations that hinder road construction and other infrastructure projects across the nation, Gilman said.
In his capacity of a Storey County commissioner, Gilman traveled to Washington D.C. a few months ago to meet with administration officials, including those in the Department of Transportation.
“The idea was that they were going to drop three or four regulations for every new one added,” Gilman said. “They were very excited when we were back there that it wasn’t just three (dropped regulations) for every new regulation, it was an average of 16 for every new one. And now, I just saw a report that came out, that it is about up to 20 or 22. So they are proud of what they are doing in Washington and while we don’t see a lot of it in the press, one of the unfortunate things, they are deregulating.”
Gilman said there is enough room between the mountains and the Truckee River on the I-80 corridor for expansion of the freeway between Sparks and the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center.
“Sure, there are different designs for different areas,” Gilman said. “And you could go two story. You could even have a raised lane above if you wanted to. There is more than enough (space). You cut back into those cut banks. It is not that it is so narrow, you just have to do more grading. So can that be done? My goodness, yes.”
Gilman said NDOT employees are “fabulous” road builders but need deregulation help from the federal government.
“I think we’ve got the right folks on the ground,” Gilman said of NDOT. “But we need the federal backup and we need to deregulate. And I believe that is happening.”
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