More than a pretty look

More than a pretty look

“We shouldn’t care how much money has been spent on the artwork on I-80 because it makes Reno look good,” said Derek Wilson of Reno. “That art is going to last a long time, which makes it cost effective, and it’s a constant reminder of what is special about our area.”

Drivers no longer run the gauntlet of construction on I-80 and 580/395, and they now see representations of native species of animals, fish and plants on the sound barriers. The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) puts aside 3 percent of highway improvement funds for use specifically for aesthetic enhancements along the freeways. That means approximately $2.22 million was spent in 2012.

A look through the I-80 corridor will produce several bevies of quail, sieges of heron, flocks of egrets, stands of cottonwood trees and schools of trout. A wild mustang perches above the Reno sign at the Virginia Street exit, heading west and patterns made of different colored rock appear all along 580/395.

“I think it looks cool,” said Robert Rucker, a retired school teacher. “I’m not too sure about spending taxpayers dollars on it, but I think it’s very representative of our area and it adds something special to the freeways.”

Scott Magruder, public information officer for NDOT, said there’s more to the designs than just aesthetics. “The sound barriers have patterns to discourage tagging, and the new sign poles are designed to be almost impossible to climb so that highway signs aren’t tagged either.”