As it completes the first phase of the Southeast Connector roadway, the Regional Transportation Commission is now waiting to hear on its application for a wetlands permit for the remainder of the project. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports that the new thoroughfare is meant to ease traffic congestion by linking south Reno to east Sparks.
With the $65 million construction of phase one wrapping up, RTC Spokesman Joe Harrington says the organization is waiting for a green light from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"We are hopeful that it will perhaps be in just a few weeks," he says. "We feel that the engineering here is solid and are moving ahead with phase two. The environmental analysis was comprehensive here. We will monitor and maintain the wetlands in the long term; there is a plan for that."
Back in the fall, the Army Corps of Engineers collected public comments on the RTC's application. Those included the EPA's warning that more study and monitoring would be needed for mercury levels in Steamboat Creek, south of the Truckee River.
Harrington says the RTC has addressed those concerns and that the project will isolate soil containing the highest concentrations of mercury under the roadway at a higher elevation than where it sits now.
"Currently, small floods are able to spread that mercury around the area, so by moving it up and putting it under the roadway, this is going to prevent floodwaters from continuing to spread this throughout the area," Harrington explains.
If the wetlands application is approved, transportation officials expect tires to hit the pavement by early 2017.