State prepares for more legal battles for Boulder City bypass project

CARSON CITY – Anticipating trials over the value of properties needed for the Boulder City bypass project, the state Transportation Department Board on Monday upped a contract limit with a private attorney by $850,000.

The board, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, approved the increased amount that could ultimately be paid to Carson City attorney Laura Fitzsimmons to $1.15 million from the current $300,000.

The initial contract amount of $300,000 has been spent on legal services related to the project. The new contract amount runs through July 2015.

Dennis Gallagher, legal counsel to the board, said Fitzsimmons is expected to be the lead counsel on the Boulder City cases should they proceed to trial.

The contract covers four separate condemnation actions, as well as an inverse condemnation action filed against the state Department of Transportation by one property owner. The number of legal actions expanded at the meeting when the board voted to approve another condemnation proceeding for a parcel owned by the city of Los Angeles needed for the project.

The costs of the property acquisitions are expected to run into the tens of millions of dollars.

Five of nine parcels have been acquired.

The inverse condemnation action, brought by an attorney on behalf of the owner of a parcel called Jericho Heights, could cost many millions by itself.

The attorney earlier this year offered the property for $33 million with the use of fill dirt from the parcel that would ultimately lower the cost to taxpayers. Negotiations over the value of the 3-acre parcel on the southwest side of U.S. Highway 95 at Railroad Pass are continuing.

Another $14 million may be needed for property belonging to the Railroad Pass Casino, and $12 million might be required to purchase a parcel owned by K&L Dirt. The business would also have to be relocated.

The state has offered $260,000 for the Los Angeles-owned property sought by the state is just over half an acre. The condemnation action was approved to ensure the project stays on schedule.

The highway construction project is expected to be advertised this fall could cost between $90 million and $110 million.

The Boulder City bypass is a top priority for state officials. Phase 1 of the bypass has a completion date estimated at late 2017 to early 2018.

The second phase of the project would run south of Boulder City east to the Hoover Dam bypass and bridge. There are no right-of-way costs involved, but there is no funding yet either.

The 2011 Legislature passed a bill making a toll road a potential option to get it built more quickly. The bill lifted a prohibition on toll roads in Nevada and made the bypass a possible demonstration project.