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STUDY: Spanish Springs connector to TRI Center would aid environment

By John Seelmeyer
USA Parkway near the TRIC Tahoe Reno Industrial Center in Storey County

A new highway to link the homes of Spanish Springs to the jobs at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center could dramatically reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, finds a study commissioned by the City of Sparks.

The proposed 12-mile road, essentially an extension of La Posada Drive, would run southeast from Spanish Springs to a connection with USA Parkway at the industrial center.

Ed Lawson

Ed Lawson, a Sparks City Councilman who has worked five years on the proposal, says the new road would trim about 10 miles off the commute for Spanish Springs residents who currently travel down Pyramid Highway to Interstate 80 for jobs at TRIC.

And that translates into the potential for major environmental benefits, finds the study completed for the city by scientists at Desert Research Institute.

For every 1,000 cars that would take the new route rather than Pyramid Highway and I-80, the study estimates a savings of 2.5 tons of greenhouse-gas emissions every day. Diverting 10 percent of the traffic from Pyramid Highway to the new route would reduce emissions by about 4 tons a day.

The environmental benefits would be greater, the study finds, if the proposed new highway also was extended west of Spanish Springs to serve Lemmon Valley residents.

The need for the new road is all the more pressing, Sparks officials note, because they expect that many of the 43,000 new housing units that will be needed as the region continues to grow will be built in Spanish Springs, North Valleys and other locations north of I-80.

Lawson said the proposal has drawn the support of officials in Reno and Washoe County as well as leaders of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, who have raised concerns about the ability of I-80 to handle growing traffic between Sparks and TRIC.

The next step is winning Congressional approval for a land swap of federally owned properties along the proposed route.

Lawson said Congressman Mark Amodei and Sen. Jacky Rosen have agreed to introduce legislation authorizing the land swap, and they hope to win approval this year.

Costs of the new highway have been estimated in the range of $400 million to $500 million, Lawson said. That compares with ballpark estimates of well over $1 billion to add lanes to I-80 through the Truckee River Canyon between Sparks and TRIC.

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