Freeway opens, commuters merge: It takes 3 1Ú2 minutes for a classic Chevy to drive the first phase of freeway |

Freeway opens, commuters merge: It takes 3 1Ú2 minutes for a classic Chevy to drive the first phase of freeway

Cathleen Allison / Nevada Appeal / Gov. Kenny Guinn speaks to a crowd of about 200 people at the north end of Phase I of the Carson City bypass during a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon. Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira, left, and the governor made the first trip south on the freeway together following the ceremony.

CARSON CITY – Southbound traffic smoothly merged onto a newly opened capital city freeway at 3 p.m. Thursday, marking the completion of the first half of the Carson City bypass project.

About three minutes later the first group of motorists exited onto a congested Highway 50 East interchange, the end of the road and the beginning of the next phase.

Traffic snarled at the Highway 50 East interchange while crews worked to correct a minor problem with the traffic signal. The northbound on-ramp was opened half an hour later.

Cruising about 35 mph in their 1955 red-and-white Chevy named Flo, Wayne and Debbie Walters honked and waved at the Nevada Department of Transportation workers near the freeway entrance. The retired couple said they wanted to be the first ones to drive a classic on the new freeway.

“It’ll be slick when it’s all done because downtown Carson City is so crowded,” Walters said as he sped up to about 50 mph.

NDOT projects 15,000 commuters a day will use the $120 million North Carson freeway, which is about 3-1Ú2 miles long. Since the Walters live in Minden, and only go to Reno about once a month for shopping and entertainment, they won’t be one of those commuters. Debbie Walters said they’ll use the freeway after it connects at South Carson Street and Spooner Summit in 2010.

A sporty Roadster gunned its engine as it shot by the classic Chevy. The Walterses may have been the first classic car on the freeway, but they weren’t the fastest.

The car reached College Parkway in 11Ú2 minutes. NDOT spokesman Scott Magruder said daily congestion at the Carson Street and College Parkway intersection will be eased because 15,000 fewer cars will cross that intersection, a decrease of 43 percent.

“There’s the Wal-Mart. We were there the first day it opened,” Debbie Walters said. This is a couple that keeps track of its “firsts.”

Walters happily reported he was the first to get Gov. Kenny Guinn’s signature on the event program after the 2 p.m. ribbon cutting. About 200 people, including local officials and NDOT workers, attended the event in the northbound lanes of the freeway near the Arrowhead Drive interchange.

Nikki O’Brien, of Carson City, brought her 6-year-old son, Liam, to the event.

“It’s a big deal for the community and I thought it would be educational for my son,” she said.

Following the ribbon cutting, Gov. Guinn, with Carson City Mayor Marv Teixeira in the passenger seat, drove his black 2006 Cadillac DeVille through a banner stretched across the southbound lanes.

Those who live or work on the east side of Carson will save up to 10 minutes on their commute to Reno. Traveling at 65 mph, motorists will bypass downtown congestion and the traffic signals on College Parkway.

Back on the freeway, Walters steered his car into the left-turn lane to merge onto Highway 50 East. They’re heading to an auto repair shop off the highway to pick up Debbie’s car.

Dayton-area residents can travel on Highway 50, turn right on Graves Lane and access the freeway at the East College Parkway ramp.

After the novelty wears off, many commuters coming from South Carson, Gardnerville and Minden will stick to Carson Street.

“The end result was that it was nice and smooth,” Walters said.

“And that was about 3 1Ú2 minutes,” Debbie Walters said.

The Carson City bypass is the first freeway built in Northern Nevada in 10 years.

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