Heidi Bunch
Assemblyman Ira Hansen addresses the room at the I-11 meeting in Hawthorne last week.

Concerned members of Mineral County gathered at the historic Hawthorne Convention Center last Tuesday, Aug. 7 to give their public input on the corridor alternative recommendations for Interstate 11 (I-11) which will run through Las Vegas to Northern Nevada. Many were elated to hear that two Mineral County routes are in consideration.

In attendance were Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) specialists who answered questions regarding the alternatives analysis study as well as the planning and environmental linkages effort.

The planning and environmental linkages is a study “conducted during the corridor planning phase on environmental, social and economic factors potentially affecting the corridor selection,” as stated in information given by NDOT.

Rudy Malfabon, Director of NDOT, spoke to the audience. Malfabon, attended school in Hawthorne and graduated from Mineral County High School. He addressed the question, “How long will it take to build this project.” His answer, “Many years and hundreds of millions/billions of dollars in the future years.” He congratulated the residents who pushed so hard to make sure Hawthorne was not left out of the I-11 equation. “I think you will like the answer,” he told the crowd.

The evaluation criteria for the corridor alternatives were broken down into the following areas: technology; cost; land use and ownership/management; environmental sustainability; transportation plans and policies; economic vitality; capacity/travel time and speeds; modal interrelationships and community acceptance.

Kevin Verre, project manager of the I-11 project, thanked those in attendance for their active participation in the process of I-11.

The 450-mile congressionally designated corridor was broken down to five corridor alternatives:

• B1 – Fallon Connection: was not recommended for further study. It included environmental impacts, lack of connectivity and inconsistency with planned improvements.

• B2 – Fernley East Connection: which included a route through Mineral County was recommended to move forward into the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) phase.

• B3 – Fernley West Connection: which also included a route through Mineral County was also recommended to move forward into the NEPA phase.

• B4 – Reno Connection: was not recommended due to environmental impacts, high cost and lack of agency/public support.

• B5 – Eastern Fernley West Connection: was also not recommended due to longer travel times, inconsistency with planned improvements and high likelihood for environmental impacts.

• Segment A: a route which starts outside of North Las Vegas and continues through Indian Springs, Beatty, Goldfield and Tonopah was approved to move forward with alternatives B2 and B3.

As noted above, NDOT is looking at routes B2 and B3 to move into the next phase of I-11. Residents can help by addressing concerns or praises regarding the chosen corridors in writing or by email. Those letters need to be into NDOT by Aug. 31.

NDOT will then take the feedback given and make their final recommendation regarding the I-11 route and that report will be available by Sept. 30 of this year.

James “Gunny” Utterback, Chairman of the Mineral County Economic Development Authority board, asked the panel, “Will the I-11 corridor be used for other things such as the rail line? Will they continue the rail line further south?” He also pointed out the need for fiber optics and a boost for Mineral County residents with natural gas.

Candice De with NDOT addressed Utterback’s questions. “We still have a high level of planning and we will consider these items,” she told Utterback.

Maurice White, resident of Carson City encouraged NDOT to use the B2 route termination outside of Fallon. He stated that Nevadans are losing public lands at a rapid rate and there is currently a 265,000 acre land bill, Senate Bill 414, concerning Pershing County currently being looked at.

“You and I will never again see the Humboldt River, if this passes,” White told those in attendance.

White explained that since Mark Amodei has been in office, Amodei has orchestrated many land grabs. He cautioned those in attendance to write NDOT with these concerns.

Assemblyman Ira Hansen (R) thanked Malfabon for his help. He questioned if once NDOT makes their decision can the “feds” make a different decision?

NDOT addressed “What happens to my town?” if the route is chosen for I-11. The goal of I-11 is not to negatively impact any communities along the corridor, but rather complement community development. Alignments around towns are not being developed at this time because of the level of this planning and environmental linkages study. However, future NEPA studies will evaluate the precise alignment in further detail. If a new route is recommended for I-11, it is because constructing a limited access, interstate highway in the middle of town would have major detrimental impacts to local businesses and bisect the town. An interstate has no intersecting streets or driveways and access is obtained from traffic interchanges. Thus, the goal would be to construct I-11 nearby to continue to support community growth, provide local interchanges for travelers to stop in town and maintain “main streets” as viable economic and community centers,” stated a handout from NDOT.

On Thursday, Aug. 9, NDOT along with the Southern Nevada Regional Transportation Commission and hundreds of Nevadans attended the grand opening of Interstate-11 in Boulder City.

U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) was in attendance and said, “We have a lot to be proud of today with the Boulder City Bypass, and it is because this state collaborates and works well together. Thank you to the Nevada Department of Transportation and the Southern Nevada Regional Transportation Commission for making this project a reality. Above all, we should thank the residents of Clark County who voted to ensure there is available funding for infrastructures like this one.” He would go on to say that the I-11 project remains one of his top infrastructure priorities and that he will keep fighting to ensure that Nevada has the resources and funding to complete the project up into Northern Nevada.

Congressman Ruben J. Kihuen (D-NV) was also in attendance and said, “I-11 is a major step to ensuring that Nevada becomes competitive and prosperous in a global economy. This phase of I-11 brings us closer to creating a major multimodal north-south transcontinental corridor through the Intermountain West, connecting cities, trade hubs, railroads and ports. I-11 will grow our economy, develop jobs and facilitate moving goods, services and people efficiently and safely between Las Vegas and Phoenix.”

If you wish to comment on the Interstate 11 Northern Nevada Alternative Analysis, the Independent-News has comment forms or you may email:

Kevin Verre, Project Manager at kverre@dot.nv.gov

or mail to:

NDOT

1263 S. Stewart St.

Carson City, NV 89712

Attn: Kevin Verre