Road to ruin

Anyone who has lived in Reno for any time at all knows there are but two seasons: winter and road construction.

It’s frustrating, but road construction isn’t reason enough to go off the deep end and drive aggressively or hazardously. While there may be someone at fault for the extra 20 minutes per day you are spending on the road, it’s probably not the person in the SUV in the lane next to you.

Let’s be clear here: The reasons for this construction all have to do with rampant, mostly unplanned growth over the last 30 years. Everyone in the Truckee Meadows reaps some of the benefits of growth: more jobs, better shopping, more diversity in population and entertainment—the list is long. But just as long is the list of costs for growth—less wilderness land, increased travel-time and stress, sprawl, more gray-air days in the valley.

The seemingly interminable work on the Spaghetti Bowl has many drivers pulling their hair out, and it’s not just the slowness of the construction—most people just accept road-building as a price of living here. It’s the construction that appears to be without benefit and the poor planning that will not alleviate—even when construction is completed—problems associated with an exploding population. It’s the inexplicable sound walls on the south side of Interstate 80 going onto Highway 395 south that appear to prevent widening the interchange. It’s the remaining choke point next to John Ascuaga’s Nugget. It’s the foreshortened on-ramp onto I-80 West from Wells Avenue (where much of the Sparks-Reno traffic has been detoured). It’s the apparent lack of personnel actually working on the roads. It’s the wasted money on portions that have been completed and must be torn apart and rebuilt because of poor construction. It’s the Glendale off-ramp that remained closed for so long after it appeared to have been completed.

But, aside from a little self-gratifying whining, fingerpointing isn’t going to get the road finished. It’s pretty obvious that Frehner Construction Co. and the state of Nevada both own part of the responsibility for the inconvenience suffered by road users over the last four years.

Yes, the construction company is being fined $10,000 per day for tardiness, but if history is any indication, Frehner will not suffer the kind of punitive fines that will give the company pause before it under-allocates resources to a deadline job.

And how will the Nevada Department of Transportation pay for its citizens’ inconvenience over the last few years? Is anyone’s job on the line?

Didn’t think so.

And maybe that’s where the real frustration lies. Since nobody—neither the construction company nor the road administration—is truly accountable to us citizens, frustrations will continue to rise. It’s up to us, the drivers, to keep our cools and not to act out behind the wheel. But, too, it’s up to those of us who are frustrated by this road situation to cast their ballots next year to change the elected officials who appoint apathetic administrators who allow taxpayers’ money, time and convenience to get stuck in traffic.