RTC responds to Southeast Connector public comments

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RTC responds to Southeast Connector public comments

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Regional Transportation Commission

Photographic rendering of Huffaker Narrows Bridge over Alexander Lake Road looking east.

The Regional Transportation Commission has responded to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding public comments on its wetlands permit application for the Southeast Connector project.

Those comments include a recommendation from the Environmental Protection Agency that the permit be denied unless the RTC can address concerns regarding mercury contamination.

During a recent public comment period on the project, the Army Corps of Engineers got about 30 comments, including the EPA's, which said that more study and monitoring are needed for mercury levels in Steamboat Creek, south of the Truckee River.

Kristine Hansen with the Army Corps of Engineers says that along with mercury contamination another concern is flooding.

"We're looking at whether the road will increase the frequency and depth of flooding on existing homes and homeowners within the area," Hansen explains, "as well as when you add all the existing projects as well as upcoming projects, whether that will be an increase in flooding to the surrounding area."

RTC Project Manager Garth Oksol says he believes the project will eventually get the green light, even if the Army Corps of Engineers decides to require an environmental impact statement. But that process would be lengthy and costly.

"What we'd be looking at is about two more years' worth of effort to go through the environmental impact statement process," Oksol says, "and it's important to note that that has a cost to it, but the biggest cost is construction inflation. Two more years of construction inflation is a significant additional cost."

The project, which has been in the planning stage for decades, is 5-and-a-half miles long and would connect south Reno to east Sparks to reduce traffic congestion. The total cost is between $230 and $250 million.