Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
The Nevada Department of Transportation has narrowed down the list of possible routes for the future Interstate 11 and both of them will connect to Interstate 80 somewhere near Fernley.
Representatives of NDOT and it’s I-11 project partners told a crowd of about 40 people Thursday afternoon that the list of five possible routes from Tonopah to I-80 have been narrowed to two – one that would approach Fernley from the east through Fallon, and the other from the south, along the current U.S. 95A corridor.
The interstate is eventually intended to connect from Mexico to Canada, with two possible routes north of Interstate 80, from Western Nevada into California and Oregon, or from Central Nevada through Oregon and Idaho. NDOT’s current study, however, is to determine the route from Tonopah to Interstate 80, project manager Kevin Verre said. He said NDOT has looked at the freight plans of adjacent states, but he said engaging with other states wold be a later stage of the project.
Verre said four corridors from Tonopah to I-80 were originally considered, then a fifth was added based on public input. Verre said each of the five corridors were compared against each other using a scoring method, where three alternatives were eliminated.
The two remaining options, B2 and B3, favorably met the criteria for I-11, he said.
Option B2, known as the Fernley East Connection, would run from Tonopah through Schurz and Fallon and connect with I-80 east of Fernley. Option B3, the Fernley West Connection would run from Tonopah through Schurz and Silver Springs an connect with I-80 west of Fernley.
The options eliminated were B1, the Fallon Connection, which would run from Tonopah to Salt Wells and bypass Fallon on the east and connect with U.S. 95 north of Fallon, as well as B5 and B4.
Option B5 was a variation of that route that was added after public input, that would run from Tonopah to Hawthorne and then veer heast of Walker Lake to Salt Wells.
Option B4 would have run from Tonopah to Walker Lake then veer west south of Yerington and connect with U.S. 395 south of Gardnerville.
The elimination of the Fallon connection met with disdain in a meeting held later Thursday in Fallon, where Churchill County Commissioner Bus Scharmann had said at a March meeting the other alternatives would be devastating to the county.
The Mineral County Independent News, however, is reporting the B1 corridor faced pushback from Hawthorne residents, their congressman and the U.S. Army, which operates the sprawling Hawthorne Army Depot. Mineral County residents expressed their concerns about the B1 route completely bypassing their county, and the Army looked at logistics and stated any corridor coming through Hawthorne should combine the government’s rail line with highway transportation.
Commissioner Pete Olsen said Thursday routes B2 and B3 are both problematic for Churchill County.
“I still believe B1 to be the best choice for the state and county,” he said.
Routes B2 and B3 would follow existing highways.
Bardia Nazhati of Jacobs Engineering, Inc. said much of the Interstate 11 would be constructed by upgrading existing highways to Interstate standards, as was done on the section of I-11 between Wickenburg, Ariz. and Las Vegas.
Although segments of the highway are under construction in southern Nevada, Nazhati said it won’t be built for many years.
“Not in my lifetime, but incremental improvements could begin within three to five years,” he said.
NDOT planning administrator Mark Costa said there is no current funding source for I-11, but it is being addressed through the One Nevada Transportation Plan, which would be used to develop policies and objectives to evaluate transportation projects.
NDOT is still taking comments on the project through Aug. 31 and will publish its final report by Sept 30. Information on the project is available at https://www.nevadadot.com/projects-programs/programs-studies/future-i-11-alternatives-analysis-las-vegas-valley-to-i-80.
To provide comments, email Kevin Verre at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Nevada Department of Transportation, 1263 S. Stewart St., Carson City, NV 89712.