The Ely Times
The Nevada Department of Transportation held a town hall meeting where more than 50 people were in attendance.
NDOT began the presentation began with the initial projected plan that was presented in previous meetings in Ely.
In June of 2017, a presentation from NDOT with several displays of the different areas of Ely, and the plans that were going to take place excited individuals in the community.
At this particular meeting, the project was anticipated to begin in the summer of 2018 and finished in late 2019 according to a Ely Times article. In July of 2018, another town hall meeting was held, where plans for the original project proposal was still being presented.
The initial plan boasted $26 million would be spent on the Ely downtown reconstruction project also known as the Ely Roadway Rehabilitation project. But things have drastically changed.
On Aug. 7, a much different meeting was held, this time it appeared as though most of the projects outlined for the downtown area were being cut out due to funding.
But the day before the town hall meeting, the Mainstreet Program held a meeting where several members expressed their frustrations and disgust for the changes in the project.
Jae Pullen, project manager for the Nevada Department of Transportation, attended the meeting.
“It’s hard for me to grasp all of the efforts your committee has put into this,” Pullen said. “I have only been involved in it since fall of last year. From the stories I have heard, this project has been evolving for many many years. There is a lot of misconceptions about the project and where it’s going, My goal in this meeitng is to give you an overview of how we got to where we are.”
Pullen noted that he wanted to keep the conversation open.
It was explained by Pullen that the project was initially paving, but there were a lot of needs in the corridor. Lighting, trees, drainage that didn’t meet the current design were on the list to be updated.
“The challenge was, we had a spiraling scope, but the budget wasn’t matching what the scope was.”
Now to present time, a cost risk assessment was completed and it detailed what the risks of a project was, and the cost,”Pullen said.
Donna Bath, economic development officer for the Northeastern Nevada Regional Development Authority, expressed her concerns. She said, “You were scheduled in June for the annual meeting, you cancelled, you did not show up. I cannot believe that you did not know about this in June. We heard about this one week before the meeting, were you going to wait and spring this on us? I think it’s way past time, 11 or 12 years that we have waited.”
Brad Simpson of with Keller William Realty said, “Since I’ve been on these committees, I’ve been selling Ely, up and down the state, I feel like you just shot us out of the air. I have been telling people we are going to beautify downtown, I’m working with businessman who are talking about investing millions, this to me is just flushing us down the toilet.”
The initial project was going to have pictures of the cultures that made White Pine County, displayed on the sidewalk.
Landscape including several trees on each block, and aesthetics such as metal signage and copper lamp posts were also going to be along the walkway creating a journey through time in the downtown corridor.
Aultman would have also have a noticeable change by becoming a two lane road, with a turning lane in the middle and bike lanes incorporated as well.
The traffic light at Aultman and 5th street would be removed and a flashing beacon pedestrian crossing would be installed.
The sidewalk on West Aultman from 1st Street to 11th Street would be called the Arts & Cultural District with a story line.
Great Basin would have reconfigured lanes to provide a safer route for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. In addition, fiber optics would be installed, water and pipeline replacement would occur with drainage improvement.
Pullen said, “There are a lot of moving parts to this project, I thought it was very important showing you what we have discussed in the past. We aren’t trying to pull a fast one on you. We changed the delivery method. Since last year, we show you the complete streets, this used to be one big project and the conception of it has been going on for a decade.
“We had a budget of $26 million and the engineers was forty plus. This was an eye opener and red flag. Looked at the scope, it had been growing for over a decade, things were added.”
In October of last year, a cost risk assessment was completed. This project has a lot of challenges Pullen said.
“I’ve never seen a project so complicated as this one,” Pullen said. “You have a FEMA flood plain tied to Highway 50. Local market conditions, and that’s hard for us to use historical bids. Quality material resources, in order to get that in is going to cost a lot.
“Large box culverts, you look at the downtown corridor, you are looking at face to face bulidings. Keeping busineses open, and roads open, and that’s a risk. The department made the decision to change the project delivery method.”
Pullen said, “We didn’t want to delay the project, we wanted to see it begin next year, so how do we do that? We break it into separate projects. Project A goes out with the $26 million that was initiated. Construction project B designs would be completed, and be shelf ready so as soon as funding is ready, we will do it.”
Several local residents spoke during public comment asking how soon project B would begin? How would the funding be found. Pullen answered in that it could be federal funding, it would just depend on when funding is available.
The question was also posed if NDOT could focus on the downtown corridor first, and Pullen explained there would be so many cuts to it, that it wouldn’t be nearly what was proposed.
NDOT will be presenting project A to the transportation board, once and if approved the project could begin in the Spring of Summer 2020. But for now, project B will be postponed until funding becomes available.